NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Biotech Foods Can Be a Boon for Consumers

March 13, 2002

The resistance to biotech food isn't surprising, experts say. New technologies rarely receive broad welcome. Canned food was viewed apprehensively for 100 years. Pasteurized milk, margarine and microwave cooking all met with suspicion. Artificial insemination of farm animals was regarded as tampering with nature.

Nevertheless, recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology offers the potential for expanding the world's food supply and overcoming some now insurmountable obstacles, such as the biotic and environmental factors affecting plants' genetic composition and structure. The advantages of rDNA biotechnology-derived food crops include increased yield and better resistance to pests, disease, and environmental stress. With rDNA:

  • Food-deficient regions of the world may become less common because recombinant DNA crops can be developed to prosper under conditions that previously limited or prevented plant growth.
  • Improvements in the nutritional quality of DNA-derived plants will be more rapid and more pronounced.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables will have longer shelf lives that either can't be obtained through conventional means or are obtained more slowly.
  • It will allow the introduction of health-promoting constituents, such as substances that protect against cancer, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, help maintain bone density and resist infection.

Even with the population stability estimated by 2050, the world will still need farm outputs 2.5 to 3 times greater than current harvests to provide quality diets to the world population.

While organic farming is often held up as the agricultural ideal, the U.S. has only about one-third of the organic nitrogen needed to support current U.S. farm output -- and countries such as India and China have even less.

Source: Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), "What Biotech Food Can Do For the Consumer," Consumers' Research, January 2002.


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