Bayer CropScience highlights positive benefits of crop biotechnology

Crop biotechnology continues to produce higher yields.
Crop biotechnology continues to produce higher yields.

A vast majority of American foods contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that have been deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration, yet a vocal contingent of Americans oppose such bioengineering.

“Our goal is to make information about GMOs in food and agriculture easier to access and understand,” said Scott Kohne, head of Market Acceptance for Bayer CropScience in North America.

Over 18 million farmers in 27 countries use bioengineering technology to manage pests and diseases that adversely affect crop yields in their unmodified counterparts. In the 20 years of genetic engineering practices, farmers also have been able to increase arable land by designing more resilient variations of their crops; ultimately this increases food, feed and fiber to sustain a growing global population.

For instance, engineering crops more resistant to the dryer climate in the American Southwest has helped mitigate the impact of the historic drought on farmers.

While opponents of these practices are concerned that food safety is the trade-off for these benefits, the scientific consensus supports bioengineering as a safe and sustainable practice.

“An overwhelming number of worldwide experts, including World Health Organization (WHO), American Dietetic Association and European Commission, agree that GMOs are safe for human consumption,” Kohne said.

Before a genetically modified product is released for general consumption in the United States, the FDA uses well-established scientific methods to test the changes made to the unmodified crop to ensure the modifications are appropriately considered and addressed.

The FDA also offers a consultation service to help ensure the safety of products.

“Food growers, manufacturers and distributors all have a role in ensuring that food products marketed in the United States are safe,” Kohne said.

However, the question of mandatory labeling for GMOs is a more complicated one for Kohne.

“The biotechnology industry and agricultural stakeholders in the U.S. supports consumers’ right to know,” he said. “We do not support a label system that is intended to convey that GMO food is somehow less safe, healthful, or nutritious than food derived from any other breeding technique.”

The Council for Agricultural Sciences and Technology published a study on the impacts of mandatory labeling and found no scientific basis for the idea that GMO foods were somehow unsafe or less nutritious than the unmodified counterparts and would be a drastic divergence from the long-standing American policy of voluntary labeling.

It also could have serious impacts on consumer prices for food, with estimates ranging from just a few dollars to 10 percent of a consumer’s grocery bill.

“Labels that identify organic food or non-GMO food, for example, provide meaningful information without the negative consequences of adopting public policy meant to advantage one agricultural sector over another,” Kohne said.