Plant breeding was provided access to wider genetic variation through genetic modification (GM) of crops in the 1980s. This involved transfer of DNA between species, and introduction of new traits into domestic crops. Concerns were raised for the outcomes in food health and in the environment with GM crops, with the spectre of ‘Frankenstien’ foods and fear of the unknown. This led to widespread adoption of GM regulations based on the ‘Precautionary principle’ of safeguarding the risks to health and to the environment, even when scientific evidence was lacking to support these concerns. The Green lobby required GM foods to be safe for consumption, with no ill-effects over the long term and for many generations into the future. GM foods have proven safe for over two decades, and with benefits to crop productivity, pest and disease resistances, improved nutrition and tolerances of extreme climatic stresses. GM includes the new biotechnology of Genome Editing (GE), with targeted and precise changes to gene sites, and inter-specific transfer of genes from poorly accessible Crop Wild Relatives (CRW), for adaptation of crops to climate change. Food and fibre crops need to be exempt from GM regulations.
Part of the book: Genetically Modified Plants and Beyond