Genetically modified seeds represent a major step in both the field of genetic engineering and the actual production of agricultural products. However, GMOs, like any other great technological advancements, have positive as well as negative out-turns. This article will address the main effects and concerns of using GMO seeds in agriculture – namely the impact on health, environment, and economy. Before outlining the main concerns of using biotechnology, let’s see what GMO seeds are all about.
What are GMO seeds?
GMO stands for “genetically modified organism”. The term implies certain altering processes of genetic material that allow the transfer of characteristics from one organism to another (and even from one species to another). For decades, seeds have been modified for crop improvement reasons. The resulting organisms are called GM foods.
Breeding methods have existed long before the introduction of gene technology in agriculture. As compared to conventional hybrid vegetable and fruit crops, however, such organisms are altered on a different level. Practically, the process involves the insertion of genes in a plant’s DNA from another species. As you can imagine, the results can be both positive and negative.
What are the main effects of using GMO seeds in agriculture?
1. Health Effects of Using GMO Seeds
Without a doubt, one of the most important impacts of using GMO seeds in agriculture is on our health. Are GM foods safe for human consumption? As this article shows, there is a significant number of alarming effects GMOs have on our lives, ranging from harmless food allergies to degenerative diseases. While Canada, Australia, New Zeeland, and the EU have banned GMOs such as the rBGR, the product was marketed in the US until 2008.
At the same time, there are genetically modified seeds especially created to improve nutritional values and food quality. Recent advancements in soybeans, for instance, lead to the production of oils that contain less saturated fat.
2. Environmental effects of Using GMO Seeds
From an ecological point of view, there are many concerns to address as well. The use of GMO products can cause harm not only to humans but also to some of the smallest organisms. Although there is very little research to support concerns centering the impact of biotechnology on arthropod and weed biodiversity, it is believed that certain genes may lead to the death of other organisms that provide ecological services to agriculture.
On the other hand, the environmental effects of genetically modified seeds should be assessed according to the specifics of the area. For instance, in areas where pest and weed pressures are high, GMOs do not require a lot of insecticides and toxins to be used for crop protection. In other words, the use of GMO seeds can significantly reduce the damage from diseases, weeds, and insects. Hawaii’s papaya crops are well-known for benefiting from genetically modified seeds used to eradicate the so-called Papaya Ring Spot Virus.
3. Economic Effects of Using GMO Seeds
Two of the essential benefits of using GMO seeds in agriculture today are the increased crop yields and profits. Studies show that there is a significant connection between the use of GMOs and the market development in the agricultural sector. The causes of this scenario are pretty straightforward. GMO seeds can reduce:
- production costs;
- labor intensity;
- fuel and chemical use;
- soil loss.
On the other hand, not all farmers afford or want to use genetically engineered seeds. American small family farms are in danger of
There are, of course, many other aspects to consider when it comes to the impact of the ever-growing biotechnology in agriculture. For instance, there is a huge concern centered around the rights and control farmers using GMO seeds have on these products. It is a well-known fact that giant seed companies, such as Monsanto, require buyers to sign an agreement that forbids testing their seeds to determine under what conditions they fail or flourish.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Using GMO Seeds in Agriculture
While there are many disadvantages of using genetically modifies organism, there also many benefits we cannot disregard. While the agriculture industry members take all alarming signal into consideration, there is constantly studying going on to determine best practices in the field.
In the organic non-GMO seeds vs GMO seeds battle, for instance, there is a consensus that both the producer and the consumer can benefit from the consumption of genetically modified products. The key is to properly inform and address the consequences of using genetically modified seeds. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of making use of genetically engineered seeds.
- Toxin protection and virus resistance: GM foods contain a gene for crop protection against various toxins and viruses where pest risks are high.
- Resistance against insects: some GMOs require fewer applications of insecticides.
- High crop yields.
- Crops with lower vital nutrients.
- No regulated safety testing.
- Radical changes in diet.
- Extinction of seed varieties and beneficial insects.
Where can you buy non-GMO seeds?
If you are interested in growing organic foods, you can find free GMO garden seeds online for practically anything you can think of: sunflower, corn, soybean, papaya, chia, tomato, strawberry, herb, potato, and so on. When looking for non-GMO vegetable seeds it is important to consider the region characteristics. For instance, there are non-GMO seed companies where you can find bulk heirloom seeds for sale. As opposed to genetically modified seeds, these have been handed for generations in a particular area without human intervention, and they might not thrive in other regions. Check a non-GMO seed catalog and ask for expert advice prior to making a decision.