Myth or Fact?

Fact or Fiction?

Statement: The genetic engineering of crops is not natural. That type of genetic modification probably does not happen naturally.

Fact: Genetic modification happens naturally. Farmers have been cross-breeding plants for centuries, depending on trial-and-error to get the desired results. Biotechnology is a safer, more deliberate way of achieving—and replicating—the desired results. 

Statement: Field trials of biotech crops are dangerous. There is a high risk of contaminating other, non-biotech crops in nearby fields. 

Fact: Field trials are conducted under very strict conditions and follow stringent regulations. These conditions include the prevention of pollen flow and the prevention of entry into food and feed pathways. The failure to comply with any single condition or regulation means the trial will be stopped.

Statement: Planting biotech crops harms the environment. We don’t know what effects these crops will have on the environment in ten or twenty years.

Fact: Current farming practices, including the use of pesticides and herbicides, are very harmful to the environment, and to human health—of farmers and consumers—as well. Biotech crops that are designed to be pest and disease resistant will significantly reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides, thus reducing the risk to the environment and to human health.

Statement: Seed companies control the sale and use of biotech seeds. They force farmers to buy expensive seeds, and sue farmers who plant biotech crops without their permission. Biotech crops just make poor farmers poorer and the seed companies richer.

Fact: More than 90%, or over 18 million farmers that grew biotech crops in 2014 are small, resource-poor farmers in developing countries. The unprecedented increase in number of farmers planting biotech crops shows that biotech crops deliver substantial, sustainable, socio-economic and environmental benefits. In all cases farmers are given the freedom to choose which types of seeds they wish to plant.

Statement: Biotech crops are responsible for the evolution of “super bugs” and “killer weeds.” Pests and weeds evolve or adapt to overcome the crop’s genetic modification.

Fact: Excessive and irresponsible use of existing pesticides and herbicides are responsible for the evolution of “super bugs” and “killer weeds.” Adaption of pests and diseases to resistance genes occur in both conventionally-bred and GM lines, but with compliance to resistance management, this phenomenon can be minimized.

Statement: Foods made with biotech crops are not safe for human consumption. They cause allergies, cancer, homosexuality and birth defects, as well as many other negative side effects.

Fact: Foods made with biotech crops have been in the market for years, and are as safe or unsafe as traditional crops. Rigorous testing is done on all biotech crops before they are even commercialized. If they have been approved for commercialization then they have been proven safe to eat.

Statement: Biotech crops are not safe for animal consumption either. Farm animals that eat biotech crops get sick and even die. Animals in lab tests were shown to have died from eating biotech foods.

Fact: Biotech crops have been used for feeds for more than 18 years and there is no record of sickness or fatality.

Statement: Nutritionally-enhanced biotech rice and other crops is not the best way to solve the nutrient deficiency problem. Other, more effective solutions are already in place. Micronutrient deficiency is not even a big public health issue anymore.

Fact: Nutritionally-enhanced biotech crops are being promoted as a supplementary solution to nutrient deficiency, to be used in conjunction with other methods that are already in place. Global micronutrient deficiency is a health and nutrition issue which result to susceptibility to infectious diseases, mental retardation and child mortality.

Who Is Our Source?

The above was reprinted from International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA). ISAAA is a not-for-profit international organization that shares the benefits of crop biotechnology to various stakeholders, particularly resource-poor farmers in developing countries, through knowledge sharing initiatives and the transfer and delivery of proprietary biotechnology applications. ISAAA's global knowledge sharing network and partnerships in the research and development continuum, provide a powerful combination of science-based information and appropriate technology to those who need to make informed decisions about their acceptance and use. In addition, an array of support services completes the holistic approach to agricultural development and ensures effective implementation and timely delivery of crop biotechnologies. These services include capacity building for policy makers and scientists; regulatory oversight on such issues as biosafety and food safety; impact assessment, and science communication.

For more information on the materials presented above visit ISAAA and view their booklet, "Myths and Facts About Agricultural Biotechnology."