Based on little more than trumped-up fears, activist groups say gene-spliced crops will damage the environment and harm human health. Recent research carried out in China, however, shows how baseless such concerns really are.
The current edition of the journal Science (1) includes a survey of Chinese farmers who participated in pre-commercialization trials of rice that was genetically engineered to be insect-resistant. Participating farmers used pesticides once per year, while farmers growing conventional rice used pesticides 3.7 times per year. Further, the farmers growing the insect-resistant rice reported no pesticide-related illness, while 8.3% of those producing conventional rice did so in 2002 and 3.0% did so in 2003.
Not only did the modified rice provide a health benefit and a reduction in pesticide use, it also increased the farmers' yields by about 3% per hectare.
The fears promulgated by activists to hamper the dissemination of genetically-engineered crops are, to say the least, not supported by these data. Frankenfoods? I don t think so!
(1) Huang J, Hu R, Rozelle S, Pray C. Insect-resistant GM rice in farmers' fields: assessing productivity and health effects in China. Science 2005; 308 (5722):688-690.
Ruth Kava, Ph.D., R.D., is Director of Nutrition at the American Council on Science and Health.