Editor’s Note: This article was written by Stuart Thompson, a senior lecturer in Plant Biochemistry at the University of Westminster.
The United Nations forecasts global population to rise to more than 9 billion people by 2050. Climate change may mean that the crops we depend on now may no longer be suited to the areas where they are currently cultivated and may increasingly be threatened by droughts, floods and the spread of plant diseases due to altered weather patterns. So feeding everyone in the coming decades will be a challenge – can genetically modified crops help us achieve this?
Two groups of genetically modified crops are widely grown. The first are altered so that they are not affected by the herbicide glyphosate, which means that farmers can eliminate weeds without harming their crop …. The second type produce a natural insecticide inside the parts of the plant that pests eat.
Genetic modification can certainly be used in the fight to make crops more disease resistant…It is also becoming possible to rewrite the genes for these gatekeeper proteins so that they work for different diseases. A powerful and rapid method for editing genes called CRISPR-Cas9 has recently been developed and it is already being harnessed to produce genetically modified crops.
Fundamentally, agriculture uses photosynthesis to convert light energy, water and carbon dioxide into food – so improving this process would increase how much food we produce. An obvious target is the step that captures carbon dioxide as it sometimes mistakes oxygen for carbon dioxide in a wasteful set of reactions called photorespiration.
The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: How GM crops can help us feed a fast-growing world