Crops like potato, tomato, soybean and rice are currently being genetically engineered to obtain new strains with better nutritional qualities and increased yield. The genetically engineered crops are expected to have a capacity to grow on lands that are presently not suitable for cultivation. The manipulation of the genes in crops is expected to improve their nutritional value as also their rate of growth. There are more benefits of genetic engineering, such as the things introduced below.
First, growing GM crops is initially costly, but cheaper in the long run. GM supporters tell farmers that they stand to reap enormous profits from growing GM crops. Initially, the cost is expensive but money is saved on pesticides. To produce the GM crops, modern biotechnology is used which requires highly skilled people and sophisticated and expensive equipment. Large companies need considerable investments in laboratories, equipment and human resources, hence the reason why GM crops are more expensive for farmers than traditional crops. GM crops, farmers are told, are a far better option. It takes a shorter time to produce the desired product, it is precise and there are no unwanted genes.
Second, farmers need less herbicide in GM fields. GM crops can be produced to be herbicide resistant. This means that farmers could spray these crops with herbicide and kill the weeds, without affecting the crop. In effect, the amount of herbicide used in one season would be reduced, with a subsequent reduction in costs for farmers and consumers. For example, pest resistance was built into the cotton, hence reducing and even removing the use of pesticides, which are not only expensive but, more importantly, harmful to the environment.
Third, we can produce and consume better quality foods. Even animals can be genetically modified to be leaner, grow faster, and need less food. They could be modified to have special characteristics, such as greater milk production in cows. These modifications again lead to improved productivity for farmers and ultimately lower costs for the consumer. Modified crops could perhaps prevent outbreaks such as foot and mouth disease, which has devastated many farmers and local economies. Through genetic engineering, we may be able to make a society without disease.
Genetic engineering is a valuable technology, but it is not without its faults and technical difficulties. There is also no such thing as absolute safety or zero risk. Every new technology has some risk attached to it. As long as the benefits far outweigh any negative effects, and that everything possible is done to ensure that those risks are minimal, new technologies, including genetic engineering should be pursued. The biggest risk may be in not pursuing them.