Public perception of transgenic organisms (GMOs) has not been positive; low genetic knowledge compounded with spreading misinformation on gene modification has resulted in high disapproval from the general public. However, research shows that transgenic organisms have a positive effect on the environment and are healthy to consume.
The potential of genetically modified organism must be recognized as beneficial in order to feed the exponentially growing world population (which is expected to be 9.6 billion in 2050). Key impacts transgenic crops have on the environment are the reduction of insecticides and herbicides, their contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and increase of biodiversity.
In a 2014 meta-analysis of 147 studies, it was found that GMO’s reduce pesticide use by 37% and yielded 22% more than their conventional counterparts. Lowering pesticide use means less degradation to the environment as well as a significant reduction in pesticide runoff. Having a higher yield also allows for less land to be devoted to agriculture. If GMO’s hadn’t been adopted, we would require 6.5 million more acres to provide the food we are now.
After fifteen years of research on transgenic crop production, it has been widely recognized that GM technology has a positive effect on biodiversity. Transgenic crops have effectively increased yields, decreased pesticides and herbicides, decreased the impact on global warming, and facilitated the use of no till/reduced till farming on a global basis. In addition, transgenic crops have continued to alleviate the environmental pressures from agriculture and have facilitated an environmentally sustainable way to feed the growing population.
Experts in the industry continue to assert that transgenic organisms have made the greatest impact in reducing pesticides, herbicides and overall water use in agriculture. Due to high quality data provided by the United States Department of Agriculture—tracking pesticide use trends has been made easily accessible to the public. The impact of transgenic organisms on the environment are made more obvious in recent years because of the increase of their usage
GM crops have the potential to effectively feed the world by 2050, however, as “the Father of the Green Revolution,” Norman Borlaugh stated, “I now say that the world has the technology – either available or well advanced in the research pipeline – to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use this new technology?”
Public perception on transgenic organisms must be changed if agriculturists can continue to feed the growing population. GMO’s have decades of research and thousands of different studies with all the same conclusion—they are safe and sustainable. In order to maintain the integrity of the environment and feed the ever-growing population, the public must accept that transgenic organisms are necessary for environmental sustainability.