A study looking at 21 years of data on genetically modified crops (GMOs) in the US has found that not only can they increase crop yields, but they can also be good for you.
Published in Scientific Reports, the team was led by Elisa Pellegrino from the Institute of Life Sciences in Italy. They conducted a meta-analysis of 6,006 peer-reviewed studies from 1996 to 2016 on maize that had been genetically engineered. Only 76 publications, however, met the researchers' high standards for inclusion.
The results showed that genetically engineered (GE) maize produced a greater yield of 5.6 to 24.5 percent compared to non-GE maize. It resulted in lower concentrations of mycotoxins (−28.8 percent), fumonisin (−30.6 percent), and thricotecens (−36.5 percent). The former is toxic and carcinogenic in humans and animals. There were also no significant differences in grain quality, such as proteins, lipids, and fiber.
“The results support the cultivation of GE maize, mainly due to enhanced grain quality and reduction of human exposure to mycotoxins,” the team wrote in their paper.
Data came from GMO corn that had been planted in the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. They were based on 11,699 observations of production, grain quality, and more.
“This analysis provides an effective synthesis on a specific problem that is widely discussed publicly,” study co-author Laura Ercoli told the Italian newspaper La Republica. The researchers also noted that some studies showed the use of GMO corn has reduced the active ingredient of herbicides and insecticides by 10.1 percent and 45.2 percent respectively.
Previous reports have suggested that GMO crops do not produce yield increases, such as a criticized article in the New York Times in 2016. This latest study, however, seems to suggest the opposite.
“The Italian meta-analysis marks what could be a final chapter in an important facet of the ongoing debate over the use of GMOs in farming,” said the Genetic Literacy Project.
However, Biofortified noted that one drawback of the meta-analysis was that it grouped various GE traits of corn together. They noted that each type of GE trait “has benefits and drawbacks and typically must be considered individually.” The positives of the meta-analysis, though, seem to outweigh the other factors.
“Even with the limitations of what is available in the literature, this meta-analysis shows once again that crops produced with biotechnology are some of if not the most studied foods that we eat,” Biofortified noted.