While checking out the latest headlines and otherwise perusing the PLOSONE site in search of some new and interesting research, I came across a meta-analysis that sounded interesting. With the provocative title of ‘A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops’ (1)Klumper and Qaim, A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops. PLoS ONE 9(11): e111629. (2014) doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111629 who wouldn’t read it?
Yes, I am being facetious. The title may not be the most captivating, yet this is an area of research with which the public has long been engaged. GMOs development began in the 80’s in the hope of finding new strains of crops that would prove more resilient, more productive and/or easier to harvest. Since then the market share of GMO crops has skyrocketed (2)A quick google search will get you a plethora of articles and news stories (such as this), but tread with care., and so has the criticism. While I agree that the proper research and investigation should be conducted with any new technology, especially one with such a large share of our agriculture, but much of the detesters emerged as a PR spin. It is not hard to imagine how Genetically Modified Organisms can be spun negatively. Thus far there have been countless claims and counterclaims as to the harm and benefits of GMOs.
This article looked at several hundred articles with carefully selected criteria in order to look for statistically relevant trends in the results of studies conducted over the past three decades. Since this meta-analysis only looked at the outcomes of farmers switching to GMOs, there is still plenty of research to be done: this study didn’t look for environmental alterations, ecological effects, health impacts, or some of the other allegations brought against GMOs. But the study did find:
Clearly the switch to GMOs for most farmers represents a large shift and, from the looks of it, a huge benefit. Nevertheless this only represents one possible shift from ‘traditional agriculture’ to ‘GMO agriculture’ as practiced. Perhaps there are even better systems out there (and perhaps some of them are not monocrops).