Crop Biotech Update

GM Crops Benefit Farmers' Mental Health, Consumers' Overall Health

October 2, 2019
Source: ISAAA

University of Saskatchewan's Stuart J. Smyth detailed the human health benefits from genetically modified (GM) crops particularly those of small landhold farmers in developing countries. The publication tackled situations such as pesticide reduction, suicide rates, lowered cancer incidences, and mental and nutritional benefits.

GM crops have been commercialized globally for more than 20 years. Throughout this period, numerous reports about the significant economic and environmental impact of GM crops have surfaced. However, the same cannot be said about its benefits to human health. The publication thus takes a closer look on the benefits of GM crops to the human health.

According to different studies spanning from 2003 to 2016, the use of Bt cotton have resulted in significant reduction in pesticide poisoning in China, India, Pakistan and South America. In all four countries, the reduction of pesticide-use likely led to the decreased number of pesticide poisoning-reported cases. The pesticide-use reduction may have also contributed to the decreased levels of mycotoxins in corn, a known carcinogen to humans and animals. In a 21-year study released in 2018, Bt maize was found to have less both mycotoxins and fumonisins in it, and consumers are less likely to be exposed to both chemicals therefore possibly leading to the reduction of cancer rates.

Farmer suicide incidences were also found to have plateaued instead of increasing yearly, after Bt cotton was commercialized in India. According to the publication, the cumulative reduced suicide rate related with the Bt cotton adoption represents the prevention of at least 75,000 farmer suicides. In relation, another study mentioned that the higher yields brought about by GM crops gave farmers confidence that their crop will not fail due to pests, diseases and drought, resulting to less financial debt. It was recommended that these factors be further investigated to assess the mental health improvement of GM crop adopters.

Lastly, adoption of biofortified GM crops have shown to increase micronutrient availability. Consumers in developing countries get their nutrients mostly through a plant-based diet. With biofortified GM crops, consumers are more likely to obtain their nutritional needs through their food in-take alone. The publication emphasizes that it will be interesting to realize the health benefits of biofortified GM crops to childhood nutrition, which may be documented a few decades from now.

Read more in Plant Biotech Journal.

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