So much hate and fear has been directed at genetically modified plants in the past couple years you’d think that eating one would make your head explode or give you instant cancer.
But the truth is that genetically-modified plants are no more dangerous to humans than any other kinds of plants.
Every living thing on this planet, plants included, have evolved to avoid being eaten, or to turn their tastiness to their advantage. Plants are the product of millions of years of biological warfare, evolving new survival strategies to avoid being eaten or to make themselves tastiest when their seeds are fully developed (and can be conveniently deposited in new locations, fertilizer included, in the dung of their eaters).
People forget this. Mother Nature is all about living things eating other things to survive and plants are no different.
But there is a loud public opposition to genetic modification, in which humans bypass millions of years of slow evolution to give plants traits that help them survive in modern conditions. Plants such as papayas that don’t get ringtail disease, corn that is resistant to drought, rice that has an added vitamin which is crucial to human nutrition have all been engineered in recent years with the intent of providing more food with fewer resources for more people.
Sounds good, but a lot of people are scared of this evolution in farming.
It’s normal to be fearful of change, every technological advance humans have been criticized by detractors. But in the end, if it’s a truly valuable advancement, we collectively get over it and add it to our growing toolbox of civilization.
Genetic modification of plants is one of those tools that’s going to be a big part of humanity’s future. The current toolbox isn’t adequate to feed us all in the future.
Aquaculture is already part of it, but as it grows, responsible aquaculture farmers realize they can no longer depend on fishmeal and fish oil from wild fisheries.
That’s where genetic modification comes in.
Oil from genetically modified (GM) camelina plants – developed to produce essential omega-3 fatty acids in their seeds – has been found to be suitable for feeding Atlantic salmon, aiding the development of an alternative feed for the aquaculture industry to help preserve wild fish stocks and maintain nutritional value of farmed fish for humans.
In a collaborative research project between the University of Stirling and Rothamsted Research, scientists developed GM plants to produce high levels of essential omega-3 fish oils.
This significant development enables the plants to produce up to 20 per cent of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), one of the two omega-3 nutrients conferring human health benefits, while preserving wild fish stocks.
It’s going to happen. It has to happen. Otherwise, we will all have to take a giant step backwards, eat less fish, eat less meat, eat non-modified plants (good luck finding enough farmland to grow them all), based on nothing but fear of the unknown.