What are Genetically Modified Crops?

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  • Genetically modified crops (GMCs, GM crops, or biotech crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques to introduce news trait such as resistance to certain pests, diseases, or environmental conditions, reduction of spoilage, resistance to chemical treatments, or improving the nutrient profile of the crop.
  • Examples of some GM crops:
    • The first commercially grown genetically modified whole food crop was the tomato (called Flavr Savr), which was made more resistant to rotting and released in 1994.
    • Over half of the world's 2007 soybean crop (59%) was genetically modified.
    • Maize is the only GM crop that is currently being grown in Europe. Maize is used primarily for animal feed and is also an important raw material for the starch industry.
    • GM rapeseed is currently being grown in Europe and finds applications in the renewable energy industry.
    • GM cotton is grown primarily in India, China and the United States and serve as important source of fibre for textiles, in addition to its seeds being part of food and animal feed.
  • There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food. GM crops also provide a number of ecological benefits.
  • However, opponents have objected to GM crops on several grounds, including environmental concerns, whether food produced from GM crops is safe, whether GM crops are needed to address the world's food needs, and economic concerns raised by the fact these organisms are subject to intellectual property law.
  • The key areas of controversy related to genetically modified food are: whether GM food should be labelled, the role of government regulators, the effect of GM crops on health and the environment, the effect on pesticide resistance, the impact of GM crops for farmers, and the role of GM crops in feeding the world population.
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