New breeding techniques (NBT), precisely gene-editing tools like CRISPR-Cas9 allow scientists to develop more nutritious, climate-resilient and crops for sustainable farming systems without introducing any foreign DNA from other plant species. However, the anti-GMO activists have been trying to badmouth the technology by spreading fear among the general public about the authenticity of gene-edited crops while many nations around the globe are trying to regulate this new breeding technique in their agriculture system, keeping the benefits of smallholder farmers and the environment in view.
In fact, they (anti-GMO activists) are trying to showcase gene-edited food products as GMOs which is incorrect due to the different mechanism that both the technologies involved in modifying crops. Gene editing can not be classified as GMOs – it follows a comparative approach to breed crops as their conventional counterparts. Actually, in sensu stricto, all crops are gene-edited by nature itself over the period of their domestication. It does not involve the introduction of foreign DNA. Most developed countries like US, Canada, Argentina, Japan and Australia have also concluded that NBTs should not be regulated as GMO crops. As per the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), gene-edited crops are indistinguishable from the crops developed through traditional breeding methods. It accelerates the conventional breeding process by minimizing the timelines for quick and more precise production that can save decades as compared to traditional ways of breeding plants.
Yet the organic supporters are trying to demonize the technology by proposing unevaluated statements and portraying gene-edited crops as a potential health risk which is misinformation without any scientific evidence. For instance, entry of DuPont’s CRISPR waxy corn to the market received a well-planned hatred from organic advocates. The organic industry-funded Center for Food Safety (CFS), The National Organic Coalition (NOC) and many more directly oppose the use of gene editing. According to their understated ideologies, genetic engineering is not a part of organic production.
We do not have to look at what the opponents say instead work on progressing the gene-editing efforts to enable sustainable changes for food and agriculture. Agriculture biotechnology substantially benefits the farmers by allowing them to increase crop yields with less production cost and assured returns on their investments. Anti-GMO groups, on the other hand, are leveraging the limited awareness of the general public about biotech crops to propose biotech crops as ‘unnatural’ and harmful and leaving them in a confused state of mind.
However, the success of a few commercialized gene-edited crops on market shelves has portrayed the actual value and applicability of biotech crops in human life. For instance, healthier soybean developed through gene editing, blight-resistant potatoes, and wheat with high-fibre content are all valid indicators of potential that biotech crops behold.
Organically produced food may fulfil the requirement of few rich people but cannot meet the food requirement of the burgeoning population of the world at affordable cost, since the cost of food has increased from 63% to 86% in many developed and developing countries after COVID-19 pandemic. The World Resources Institute, in its recent report, also argues that we may need gene-edited crops to fulfil food requirement of 10 billion people by 2050. Hence, along with the ongoing researches, it is also essential to educate consumers not only about the efficacy of biotech crops but about the food insecurity situation in near future, then only the most sustainable method of plant breeding can sustain the world and denounce the myths created by anti-biotech proponents.