The History and Future of GMOs in Food and Agriculture
B. M. Chassy. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL. Cereal Foods World 52(4):169-172.
Anthropologists tell us that early humans lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and that around 10,000 years ago they started to transition into an agricultural lifestyle. Over the millennia agriculturalists domesticated crops and animals to suit the needs of improved production, resistance to diseases and pests, and to serve human preferences. In the process of domestication of crop plants, desirable traits were selected from the numerous random genetic modifications that occur in each crop generation. During the century in which modern agriculture emerged, crop plants were strikingly improved through the application of modern scientific breeding methods that drew heavily on seminal research in genetics. Later, the modern science of molecular biology was born, and the process of inserting rDNA into a living cell became known as genetic engineering. In the ensuing years the biotechnology industry succeeded in producing pharmaceuticals, chemicals, enzymes, and a list of other products that have made it a multi-billion dollar industry. It has been a remarkable success story—in fact, transgenic crop technology has been adopted faster than any other technology in the history of agriculture. But, despite its success, the biotechnology industry has also been the target of great dissent. Quite literally thousands of consumer, environmental, and charitable NGOs have participated in a well-organized, well-financed, and professionally managed global campaign against genetically modified organisms (GMOs). On top of this, mandatory labeling requirements and the costs of regulation are limiting the growth of this industry. As the world faces a growing need for agricultural products, what does the future hold in store for GMO technology?