Debunking the Top 9 myths of Biotechnology

Biotechnology is one of the most controversial subject. Depending on one’s point of view, these myths might be dangerous or hold the seeds of truth. Here are the list of 9 myths of biotechnolgy which has been widely misunderstood:

1. Biotech products are rejected by consumers

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, 222 million acres in 21 countries were used to grow biotech crops. That means farmers were buying them.

2. Biotechnology will help benefit Third World Farmers

Genetically engineered plants are patented and is under private companies which makes them more expensive than indigenous crop

3. Biotechnology benefits farmers in the US and other First World countries

Innovations in agriculture are largely profit-driven and the focus of genetic engineering is to create profitability. Farmers become dependent on industrial inputs that are patented and copyrighted and can’t even share, store or reproduce seeds.

4. Genetically engineered produce will help to eliminate the need for toxic pesticides.

Most engineered plants have been genetically altered to withstand herbicide so it can be used, or to produce their own insecticides. Example: Roundup Ready soybeans are literally created to withstand Roundup weed-killer.

5. Genetically engineered can make food taste better, last longer, and be more nutritious.

Yes, the purple potato is a wonder of science, and thanks to the purpleness, it is a little healthier than your average spud. Melons at UC Davis are currently being engineered to smell better to entice people to buy them in the stores. But that’s the catch – Biotech companies will create what sells, not out of selflessness, but out of economics.

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6. Biotech crops will transfer herbicide resistant genes to nearby weeds

It is not impossible but  some of the more problematic weeds are genetically close to the crops growing near them and cross-pollination could happen. Corn and canola cross-breed are generally easily.

7. Genetically engineered crops will have a higher yield

According to many studies conducted on the economics of engineered crops, there are no findings which supports an economic advantage to planting GE seeds (unless you’re a GE seed manufacturer or pesticide company).

8. Biotechnology will lead to the conservation of biodiversity

Biotech can create a variety of commercial plants, thus contributing to biodiversity, but it’s more advantageous to the patent-holders of biotech seeds to create international markets for their few, specialized products. In other words, it could happen, but it won’t.

9. Genetically modified corns will kill butterflies

This myth came from a study at Cornell University which reported Monarch caterpillars in a laboratory setting died due to pollen from Bt corn. However, the researchers stress that the study was done in a lab, and therefore the findings are inconclusive regarding how Monarch butterflies are affected in the field.