For thousands of years humans have been selectively breeding crops which until recently has been proven to be the most effective way of producing the best crops. However, geneticists are able to modify a plants genetic makeup and directly alter its DNA. Selectively bred crops are produced by farmers to take advantage of hereditary genes, the plants with the most favourable traits are bred together to produce a superior offspring. Genetically engineering food however has only been invented much more recently. The process requires a favourable trait to be identified then the gene correlating to it to be isolated. The way these genes are inserted come from a variety of ways however the most common two are “gene guns” that shoot metal particles covered in DNA or by using bacteria that naturally invades seeds. Because of the precision required to produce GMO crops the outcome can be can much more resilient and have higher yields than selectively breed crops.
As demonstrated by many scientific studies and projects, crops that have been genetically engineered to survive in harsher environments and be less susceptible to disease. This is done by either enhancing or adding new genes that are favourable to the environment that the plant is living in or by removing the genes that hinder its performance in that given environment. In the case of diseases scientists are able to prevent this by inserting a piece of the virus affecting the crop into its DNA. This acts in the same way that a vaccination on a human would and increases its immunity towards the virus. The ability to do this was displayed when Hawaii’s papaya industry first came in to contact with the Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRSV). “The virus first hit Hawaii in the 1940s and by the 1990s had reached almost every area that grows papaya. Production fell 50 percent between 1993 and 2006.” (Held, 2016). The virus is very harmful to the plant and leaves it useless to growers and consumers, its symptoms include “leaves develop prominent mosaic and chlorosis on the leaf lamina, and water soaked oily streaks on the petioles and upper part of the trunk. Severe symptoms often include a distortion of young leaves which also result in the development of a shoestring appearance”. (Gonsalves, Tripathi, Carr, ; Suzuki, 2010). During the 80’s a research group headed by Dennis Gonsalves at Cornell University developed what they called rainbow papayas, a variant that already had a part of PRSV in its genes acting like a vaccine. Within two years of the plant being available more than 50% of the island’s papayas were GMO, in the next decade the percentage rose to 90. This shows how genetic engineers are able to produce food to survive in a harsher environment.
Furthermore genetically modified crops are able to provide more nutrients than selectively bred crops. This is because genetisits are able to take the gene for various vitamins and other nutrients from cartain foods and insert them into others that have less or in some cases none at all. This process is can’t be done in regularly bred crops since genes from the outside can not be added into the gene pool. Many people around the world suffer due to vitamin A deffiency. Globally there are 190 million affected and 1-2.5 million die per year because of immune response suppression. To combat this problem two decades ago genetic engineers normal modified white rice was “to have 23 times more alpha- and beta- carotene—the precursors to Vitamin A—and distributed to the poor in several Asian countries.” (Andersen, n.d.). The rice was considered a success and is estimated to have saved 1 million children per year. These great results would not be able to be replicated in selectively bred crops since the food can have genes already in its gene pool and not from an outside source.
Furthermore, with the constant growing population of the human race the demand for food will increase with it. Although many anti-GMO groups firmly state that GM crops decrease yields large studies may prove otherwise. An analysis conducted by “6,000 peer-reviewed studies covering 21 years of data found that GMO corn increased yields up to 25 percent” (McDivitt, 2018). The data collected ranged from 1996 to 2016 and included The United States, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and Australia. Scientists are able to produce these large increases by creating GM crops that mature quicker and limit the damaged by disease. Another example of these crops not yet implemented that can improve a farmer’s yield would be the blight-resistastant potato that is “genetically engineered to incorporate defenses against plant diseases, which annually destroy some 15 percent of the world’s agricultural harvest.” With these genetically modified and crops and many others the risk of a food shortage can me minimised.
In short, GM crops produce much better results than their traditionally bred counterpart. Through genetically engineering our food scientists are able to create the food needed for our environment. As stated, this is done by targeting the exact gene for a trait directly, by either removing from an organism or introducing it to another our food can be healthier, much more resilient to the environment and grow in higher yields.