Genetically modified crops provide a lot of benefits for farmers, including less pesticide applications and increased yields. These benefits are why farmers choose to grow GMO crops, and also why the agricultural industry has generally accepted GMOs.
But what about consumers – are there any benefits for them?
Absolutely! Here are 6 ways that GMOs benefit consumers.
1. Keeps Bugs Out of Food
No one wants to eat wormy corn. I know this because I spent 26 years of my life selling sweet corn at my family’s roadside stand. People had all sorts of tricks to check whether an ear of corn had a worm in it. Aside from tearing the husk off the corn, which allows the corn to dry out, none of these methods were very helpful. But with the adoption of the Bt trait, consumers don’t have to employ gimmicks to make sure the corn is bug free. Instead, the corn plant itself has a built in defensive system, which is completely safe for humans, to protect it from worms.
2. Reduces Food Waste
Food waste is a big deal globally, but also for families. It is literally like throwing money out the window. Some GMOs can help reduce food waste. For example, apples are a great fruit to incorporate into your diet because they provide so many vitamins and nutrients. Unfortunately, cut apples only last so long and then they start to brown, which isn’t very appealing, and the apples get thrown away. The Arctic Apple solves that problem by simply turning off the oxidation process that causes the meat of the apple to brown. Not only does that allow apples to be prepared ahead of time, it also reduces all of the apples wasted. Want another example? The Bt trait, discussed above, also reduces the amount of corn that ends up getting thrown out because we don’t want to share it with worms. Also, the Innate potato doesn’t bruise during transportation and sales, so there will be less potatoes thrown away.
3. Cuts the Cost of Food
Remember how I mentioned that farmers really like GMOs because they tend to increase yields? Well, that’s a boon for consumers too. It’s basic economics. Higher yields results in more supply; higher supply means lower prices. Because we’re able to grow crop using less inputs, we can keep the cost of food down.
4. Makes Some Foods Safer to Eat
The Innate potato is the perfect example of a GMO making the food we eat safer! When cooked, many foods produce acrylamide, a suspected carcinogen. Potatoes are no exception, except the Innate potatoes which were genetically modified so they don’t produce any acrylamide when cooked. While the Food and Drug Administration has found that we are not consuming dangerous levels of acrylamide, being able to eliminate it without affecting taste, smell, or nutrition certainly doesn’t hurt.
5. Reduces the Carbon Footprint of Food
If you’re concerned about climate change, then you know the devastating effects it can have on our planet and way of life. Some GMOs help farmers reduce the carbon footprint of crops. Every time farmers have to go back into the field, such as to plow or apply pesticides, we are burning fossil fuels. Round-Up Ready GMO crops make weed control much easier and reduces the number of time farmers have to spray herbicides. Those crops also allow farmers to adopt practices to sequester carbon, such as no-till and cover crops. On our farm, we have not sprayed insecticide even once since adopting the Bt trait into our corn. All of that lowers the carbon footprint of crops and is better for our planet.
6. Better for the Environment
Everyone benefits from a healthy environment. Some GMOs can help farmers adopt more environmentally-friendly production methods. As discussed herein, Round-Up Ready crops reduce the need for herbicide applications and the Bt trait eliminates the need for insecticide application. Some GMOs make it easier and more cost effective for farmers to use no-till and cover crops, thereby reducing erosion and preventing runoff into water sources. All of these things add up to a cleaner environment, which we all benefit from!
Of course, nothing on this list mentions the countless other potential benefits that future GMOs could have for consumers. For that, we will just have to wait to find out!