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date: 03 February 2023

Genetically Modified Cropslocked

Genetically Modified Cropslocked

  • Glenn Davis StoneGlenn Davis StoneWashington University in Saint Louis


In 1958, a Nobel laureate predicted that one day scientists would be able to use “biological engineering” to improve all species. Genetic modification of viruses and bacteria was performed in the early 1970s. Genetic modification of plants was announced in the early 1980s, followed by predictions of revolutionary improvements in agriculture. But nearly forty years later, the improvements brought by genetic modification are meager: few crops have been modified and 87 percent of all area planted to genetically modified (GM) crops contains traits for herbicide tolerance (HT), which increases use of herbicide but not productivity. The only other widely used modification, which causes plants to produce insecticide, has improved agriculture in some areas but not others. Debate on why genetic modification has fallen so short of expectations have centered on three factors. Public resistance to GM crops and foods is blamed for slow progress by some. Excessive regulation is cited by some, especially those involved in the development of GM crops. But the main factor has been patent regimes that concentrate the development of marketable GM crops in the hands of a small number of companies that hold large patent portfolios and that can afford to enforce the patents. New technologies for genetic modification such as CRISPR-Cas9 are being heralded as offering revolutionary change in agriculture, much as genetic modification was in the 1980s.


  • Sociocultural Anthropology

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