Faq

  • Why are GMOs beneficial?

    Over 17 million farmers around the world plant GM crops, and their numbers grow each season - they grew by 6% from 2011. In fact, 9 in 10 of these farmers run small farms, too.

    In addition to higher yields and higher farm income, their reasons include:

    • Increased management flexibility 

    • Easier adoption of no- or reduced till farming, which saves time, equipment usage, fuel and carbon emissions 

    • Improved weed control

    • Soil preservation & moisture retention

    • Less worry about pest damage 

    • Less time spent on crop walking and/or insecticide application

    • Savings in energy use – mainly associated with less spraying and tillage, which reduces carbon  emissions

    • Savings in machinery use (for spraying and possibly reduced harvesting times), which reduces carbon  emissions

    • Improved quality (e.g., lower levels of mycotoxins in GM insect-resistant maize)

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  • Why do seeds have patents? Are GM seeds the only patented seeds?

    Agricultural innovation plays a key role in driving long-term agricultural productivity, rural development and environmental sustainability by encouraging new solutions. For this reason, innovation needs to be supported and protected.

    Contrary to what some say, GM seeds are not the only seeds with Intellectual Property Rights.  Almost all conventional (non-GM) and organic hybrid seeds are patented and cannot be saved for use in the next planting season.  

    In any industry, the maintenance of IPR is an essential basis for innovation and progress. 
     
    • IPR encourages continued investment in research and development, and ensures the plant science industry maintains its strong innovative base.
    • Patents form the cornerstone of intellectual property protection.
    • The protection of regulatory data and confidential business information for biotechnology inventions are important to support innovation and development. 
    • The plant science industry is one of the world’s most research and development intensive sectors. It ranks in the top four global industries in terms of percentage of sales invested in R&D. 

    The industry’s top 10 companies invest $2.25 billion, or 7.5% of sales, in the research and development of cutting-edge products in crop protection, non-agricultural pest control, seeds and plant biotechnology. All of these products aim to improve sustainable agricultural production.

     
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  • How long does it take for a GM crop or import to be approved, and how much does this cost?

     

    Companies must submit applications for each new GM crop for cultivation or import.  It takes on average almost 4 years for a GM import approval to be completed in Europe, which is roughly twice as long as in other comparable jurisdictions. The EU  tends to have even longer waiting periods for GM cultivation applications, partly due to political differences among the member states. Costs for applicant companies arise mainly from the large number of studies required and vary from € 7 million to €15 million per crop.  

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  • Are GM crops not “natural”?

    Since crops were first deliberately cultivated about 10,000 years ago, continued selection and cross-breeding has given us crop plants that are highly productive and suitable for us to harvest and eat, but which bear little relationship to their wild relatives and could not compete with them if not cultivated and managed to protect them from pests and weeds. Because this is a process that has gone on for many centuries, we regard the situation as natural. 

     
    Genetic modification is a new tool for plant breeders to produce improved varieties in a more efficient way. Many people believe that we should focus on the end results rather than the technique used to reach them. Herbicide-tolerant plants can be bred through conventional crossing, mutagenesis and selection, or by direct insertion of a specific gene coding for this trait. The end result is the same, even if GM is a newer breeding technique. 
     
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  • Which improvements are the most common?

     

    Most of the GM crops grown commercially today have improved traits for herbicide tolerance (over 70%), insect-resistance, or both. Other GM traits aim at disease resistance, drought tolerance, health or nutrition benefits, longer shelf life or more efficient industrial use.  

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  • What is next for GM crops?

     

    There are many more GM crops in the pipeline:
    • Enrichment of grains, such as ‘Golden Rice,’ a rice that aims to decrease blindness in children caused by Vitamin A deficiency
    • Healthier vegetable oils, such as those with fewer trans fats, would also provide benefits to consumers around the world
    • Drought-resistant GM maize will first be commercially cultivated in the US. Other crops that help farmers cope with challenging agricultural conditions are likely to follow.
    • New 'bread basket' crops are being researched and developed, such as GM wheat.
     
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  • What about “superweeds”?

     

    In practice, the threat of superweeds is an illusory one. A number of weeds have natural resistance to a range of herbicides, and resistance can also be acquired if the same herbicide is used over a long period of time. In fact, many common weeds already had resistance to a wide range of herbicides before GM crops were introduced. 
     
    There have also been concerns raised about genes conferring herbicide tolerance being passed to wild weed populations by cross-fertilisation. 
    However, in many cases, crops are unable to hybridise with weed populations because they have no sexually compatible relatives. If outcrossing were to occur, this would give the weed no competitive advantage outside the field, since it would not be treated with herbicide there. 
     
    GM crops tolerant to broad spectrum herbicides such as glyphosate and glufosinate have become very popular because they enable farmers to control weeds by using occasional spraying at any stage of a crop's development. This makes management much easier, generally reducing the amount of spraying.  Weeds must still be managed through appropriate farming practices.. The growth of acquired resistance to herbicides for GM or non-GM crops can be slowed by appropriate management plans.
     
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