Why genetically modified crops?

Jonathan D. G. Jones

Abstract

This paper is intended to convey the message of the talk I gave at the Theo Murphy meeting at the Kavli Centre in July 2010. It, like the talk, is polemical, and conveys the exasperation felt by a practitioner of genetically modified (GM) plant science at its widespread misrepresentation. I argue that sustainable intensification of agriculture, using GM as well as other technologies, reduces its environmental impact by reducing pesticide applications and conserving soil carbon by enabling low till methods. Current technologies (primarily insect resistance and herbicide tolerance) have been beneficial. Moreover, the near-term pipeline of new GM methods and traits to enhance our diet, increase crop yields and reduce losses to disease is substantial. It would be perverse to spurn this approach at a time when we need every tool in the toolbox to ensure adequate food production in the short, medium and long term.

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