The term genetically modified organism (GMO) specifically describes a type of genetic modification in which the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) of microbes, plants, and animals is directly altered. GMOs resulting from recombinant DNA technology—moving genes from one species to another—are also called “transgenic.” Unlike genetically modified (GM) products in the pharmaceutical sector, such as insulin, GMO food and animal products have engendered public resistance and are highly controversial on account of mutually overlapping concerns of health, environment, economics, and ethics. There are numerous controversies surrounding the use of GMOs, but there is a general consensus about the fact that they are very complex and that there should be more research before taking further decisions about their use (Butz, 2004).
The advantage of GMO is that in GMO crops have the potential to improve crop productivity on existing land and water resources, either by increasing the yield potential of plants or by reducing the effect of biotic and abiotic challenges. Several GMO crops are resistant to pests and disease. Crops that are resistant to abiotic challenges, such as drought, soil acidity, and salinity, have the potential to bring marginal land under agriculture while increasing productivity on existing farmland. For example, drought-resistant soybeans and rice, salt-tolerant rice, maize, tomatoes, rapeseed, and so on all have been engineered. Cost-saving measures like improving storage stability, delayed ripening, and other changes that provide flexibility to manage products have also being explored.
By not requiring pesticides, GM crops like Bt corn, soy, and cotton can also remove the negative effects of such chemicals on health of the producers. GM crops prevent soil and water degradation through reduced tillage and reduced application of pesticides and herbicides. There also are improvements in soil organic matter, soil structure, soil water relation, and reduced soil compaction that contribute positively to the agroecosystem.
First-generation GM crops enable producers to reduce production costs and more easily control disease, insects, and pests. These crops are more or less similar or “substantial equivalent” to non-GM counterparts when it comes to appearance, taste, and nutrition value. The second-generation GM crops, also called value-enhanced crops, focus on consumer-oriented benefits like enhanced nutritional quality. Third-generation GM crops include those that are altered to produce pharmaceuticals, vaccines, or biologics (Paul, 2007).
The first GM crop to appear in the market was Flavr Savr tomatoes, with slower ripping and longer shelf life. Roundup Ready soybean and corn were introduced in 1996 and 1998, respectively. Designed by Monsanto, Roundup has an herbicide called glyphosate as an active ingredient. Roundup can be sprayed on GM soy and corn cultivation to kill the weeds without damaging the actual crops. In 2005, about 85 percent of the soybean cultivated in the field was glyphosate tolerant.
Another GM product on the market is recombinant bovine somatotropin milk. An artificial growth hormone, recombinant bovine growth hormone is synthetically produced to mimic bovine growth hormone protein hormone, which is produced in the pituitary glands of cows and other cattle. When injected in cattle, recombinant bovine somatotropin increases ...