Genetically Modified (GM) Crops: A Potential Source to Combat Global Hunger and Malnutrition

Special Article - Malnutrition and Nutritional Deficiency

Austin J Nutri Food Sci. 2018; 6(3): 1106.

Genetically Modified (GM) Crops: A Potential Source to Combat Global Hunger and Malnutrition

Chaudhuri A and Datta A*

National Institute of Plant Genome Research, India

*Corresponding author: Datta A, National Institute of Plant Genome Research, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi- 110067, India

Received: May 25, 2018; Accepted: June 22, 2018; Published: June 29, 2018


Genetically modified crops and their use have been controversial since their inception. While pro and anti GM groups are in debate about the consequences unknown to our health and planet’s welfare, it’s now an established fact that GM crops can be a source to combat malnutrition and food shortage not only due to their enhanced yields and nutritional quality but also due to increased resistance to various types of stresses. GM crops are dominant compliments to those produced by conventional plant breeding techniques, which have many drawbacks and are also incompetent to meet the ever increasing demands of the booming global population. To meet these concerns, new advances in crop genetic engineering techniques could be utilized to improve and develop new varieties of food and cash crops. Cutting edge techniques like cis genesis and intra genesis, involving transformation of plants with genetic material borrowed from species itself or from analogous species, with the potential of sexual union respectively are proving to be a boon to enhance nutrition and increased global food production. Modern technologies like genome editing are predicted to go a long way in the future in risk free production and consumption of GM crops. Such advances of GM technology are the only way to combat malnutrition and food scarcity. Need for optimal nutrition and healthy lifestyle holds paramount importance in our lives. Genetic engineering has been largely utilized to enhance nutrition of crops either by reinforcing, by boosting the existing nutrients or by throwing out the toxins or anti nutrients.

Keywords: GM crops; Food production; Nutritional quality; Crop improvement; Shelf life; A biotic Stress; Biotic Stress


Genetically modified (GM) crops could be the possible answer to address global hunger. Each year several million children either die or suffer irreparable defects because of malnutrition and starvation. When GM crops were first produced by scientists globally, they were rightly publicized as a big leap forward in the arena of supplementing nature with high nutrient foods. The well fed rich countries of the world probably may not recommend GM foods but the rest of the world badly needed it. According to the United Nations Organization (UNO) survey, it’s recorded that nearly one in eight people across the globe face chronic malnutrition. The discovery of “Golden Rice” where the seeds of rice are fortified with vitamin A precursor betacarotene [1] was breakthrough in GM food research. This discovery was a significant step as a humanitarian gesture which was capable of alleviating the suffering of some 250 million children-the potential cause of preventable blindness and immunodeficiency-including a whopping 2 million dying due to this deficiency.

It was first discovered in 1946 that DNA can be transferred between organisms. But now it’s a well known fact that there are a plethora of mechanisms of DNA transfer from one organism to another in nature on a large scale Figure 1. The first genetically modified crop was produced in 1983 using an antibiotic resistant tobacco and Petunias. The breakthrough technology of DNA transfer with the bacterial pathogen Agrobacterium tumifaciens to plant host was a major contribution by Chilton and his research group [2]. In the early 1990s China took a significant leap by commercializing a transgenic crop with the introduction of virus resistant tobacco. The transgenic “Flavor Savor Tomato” with the trait of delayed ripening was approved in 1994 by the food and Drug Administration (FDA) for marketing in the USA. Other transgenic crops which received market vindication were canola with modified oil composition (Cal gene), Cotton resistant to herbicide Bromoxynil (Cal gene), Bacillius thuringiensis to now (BT) corn (Ciba-Geigy), Bt Cotton (Monsanto), BT potato (Monsanto) and many more. After decades of decry about bio safety of GM crops, concerned authorities cannot now turn around the claim that biotech crops are safe for consumption. To combat the mammoth proportions of the global population especially children who go hungry to bed every night, GM crops could be utilized effectively. This review is an endeavor to compile the already achieved success in enhancement of food production and fortification of nutrition but also the milestones that can be reached through more and more progressive tools and techniques.