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What happened Genetic engineers in Illinois have designed super-size tobacco plants that grow as much as 40% larger than usual by tweaking the process that plants use to turn sunlight into food.
Why tobacco? Researchers work with tobacco because it grows quickly and is easy to genetically modify. The team is now making similar gene changes to potatoes, soybeans, and cowpeas.
Greener than you think In the US alone, average crop yields are only 20% of those produced during bumper crop seasons when conditions are ‘ideal’. In other words, during a typical growing season 80% of our food production is lost to pathogens and environmental stress. Genetically engineered plants have already solved some of these problems in an environmentally friendly way.
The bad news While the research is being conducted in the US, the EU has established a rather protectionist legal framework that puts the development of modern biotechnology, and more specifically of GMOs, on hold.
Societal debate A recent survey shows that fear of GMOs is increasing. Researchers believe it could take 20 years to get the new crops approved by regulators. However, reclaiming even a percentage of crop loss across the world would go a long way to meeting the 21st century’s rapidly expanding food demands, so it's certainly worth having a discussion about. Feel free to share your knowledge, thoughts and viewpoints with us in the Contribute section! ?