GMOs can help crops and plants by enhancing nutritional content of food or even helping crops fight drought and insects. Below is a list of what traits GMOs can offer plants and crops:
- Insect resistance. This trait provides farmers with season-long protection against target pests, reduces the need for pesticide applications, and lowers input costs.
- Drought resistance. GM crops that express drought resistance can grow in much drier areas, conserving water and other environmental resources.
- Herbicide tolerance. Crops that can tolerate specific herbicides allow farmers to fight weeds by applying herbicides only when needed and enable them to use no-till production methods that preserve topsoil, prevent erosion, and reduce carbon emissions.
- Disease resistance. Through genetic modification, the Hawaiian papaya industry was able to recover from the devastating papaya ringspot virus that had crippled the industry.
- Increased/enhanced nutritional content. Currently in development are genetically modified soybeans with an enhanced oil profile, much like olive oil, made to be longer lasting and trans fat free.
In addition to genetic engineering helping GMO plants and crops thrive in a variety of conditions, it also has many benefits to human society. Cecilia Chi-Ham, Director of Science & Technology, PIPRA at University of California Davis, explains that “society has the responsibility of using science” in a response similar to this question:
“Biotechnology crops have provided significant economic benefit to millions of consumers, reduced agriculturally related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduced soil erosion and substantially decreased the use of many toxic agricultural chemicals.”
Kent Bradford, Director of Seed Biotechnology Center at University of California Davis also believes that genetic engineering can help contribute to human society and agriculture.
“Expanding agriculture increases production but has negative impacts on biodiversity, carbon release to the atmosphere, soil erosion and nutrient losses. Instead, obtaining more food value from the same amount of land requires more efficient crop plants, such as crops that make better use of fertilizers and water, have stronger resistance to pests and disease, and store more reserves and nutrients in the crop components (e.g., seeds, fruits) harvested for food.”
“Genetic engineering can contribute to all of these goals. Research has already demonstrated the potential to develop crops with increased nutrient-use efficiency, greater drought and flooding resistance, stronger disease and insect resistance and higher nutritional content and yield. Why should human society not use this ability to improve crops in order to feed all of our still-growing population while striving to minimize the impact of food production on the global environment?”
If you are interested in how GMOs help the environment, this paper from CropLife international provides more detail and the infographic below demonstrates how GMOs contribute to sustainability:
We hope the information provided answers your question. If you have any further questions, please ask. Also, feel free to contribute to the discussion in the comment section below!