Monday, February 7, 2011

Controversy: The Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Crops

Genetically modified (GM) crops are a hot topic right now amongst farmers and environmentalists.  Here are some Pros and Cons, adopted from this PBS report.   After reading these I'd love to hear your opinions.  Do you think they are safe to humans? Even if they are safe, are they necessary considering environment risk? Also would like to hear any additional benefits or risks you may think of.  

  • GM crops may provide more nutrients, vitamins, and reduced saturated fats than traditional varieties.  
  • Crops can be resistant to disease and insects, potentially cutting farming costs on insect/herbicides.
  • Crops can be engineered to have a longer shelf life.
  • Some believe GM crops may help fight world hunger.
  • GM crops are already ingested in high quantities in the U.S. with no health concerns to show for it, and testing of new GM crops is very thorough (based on many sources I've seen).

  • Some studies show crop yields are not increased.
  • There is the potential of "super weeds" and "super insect" evolution.
  • Not all the effects may be possibly known, and the corporations pushing GM crops are profit-driven, leading some to believe they are overstated benefits and overlooking risks.
  • Further travel down the road of monoculture.  Currently 15 species of crops account for 90% of world energy consumption (  A diversity of crops may be considered natural and provides insurance against drought and disease.
  • These crops may hurt small farmers, as they will become reliant on seeds from corporations producing GM crop.  They may also hurt foreign farming if modification allows more tropical crops to be grown in more temperate climates.
  • The EU and some other nations will not consume GM crops exported by other nations, so adopting them domestically could hurt U.S. export numbers.


  1. It would seem like they should really look towards using gm crops in third world countries once everything is known about them. Super weeds and super insects are a disturbing part of these crops but isn't that a worry with all crops with the use of pesticides?

  2. I think the "fight world hunger" line is corporate agenda to make the GM crops sounds more ethical or moral. How would GM crops really improve third world countries? Possibly by putting more vitamins into their food supply.

    Americans get their vitamins, not because of GM foods, but because of the economic success of our country. Give the third world countries healthy economies, and the hunger and health issue will follow suit.

    And yes, super weeds are a worry with all crops. GM crops are 'roundup ready' though, so herbicide (kills any flora) can be sprayed onto the crop without harm. I suppose the worry is an even greater super weed could evolve.

  3. I like your simple pro/con list. I think this post is good for SC because it is a summary of the issue that most people never hear both sides of. I never knew they were already used so much in the US. This article is good a sparking an interest for me to look more deeply into this topic

  4. I agree with Michelle. I really like the bulleted list. It gets right to the point and is very easy to read, but still gets your point across.

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  6. For cons I think you need to add restricted trade. I believe the EU and a lot of other countries outside the EU will not buy GM crops, or any crops from a country that produces GM crops for fear that they have been cross contaminated.

  7. Thanks Aaron. I also read that about the EU somewhere.

  8. I agree! A great post (and thanks for following up with your commenters).

    I suppose my main concern is, indeed, monoculture. When you have so few crops feeding so much of the world, you really increase your vulnerability. And I suppose I'm also not a fan of companies being able to monopolize agricultural practices this way--especially when they can sue small farmers out of existence who are accidentally growing GM crops because GM crops abut their land and there is unintentional contamination. Lame, and unjust, if you ask me.