Drought-proof fruits and vegetables that are especially fragrant but resistant to bugs and herbicides may be an individual gardener’s dream, and farmers as well as consumers looking out for these qualities has led to a surge in the use of genetic modification.
For example, a recent tomato shortage caused by a winter freeze has left grocery shoppers paying more and fast food eaters short of one burger topping. For these consumers, there may be a certain appeal to these agricultural products of science which are maligned by some and celebrated by others.
Of crops produced in America, 95% of sugar beets, 91% of soybeans and 88% of cotton are genetically modified, according to USA Today. And about 85% of both corn and canola are genetically modified as well. So if grocery shoppers think that opting for soy-based over corn-based products means they are choosing a more “natural” product, they may be mistaken. Worldwide, farmers’ adoption of genetically-modified crops is up 7% since last year, USA Today reports.
Many of the altered U.S. crops aren’t consumed by Americans, however. Rather, they’re fed to animals and used in the production of textile fibers, USA Today notes. But of those that humans do eat, many are cheaper simply because they’re genetically modified and require less care.
However, according to the National Institutes of Health, genetic modification of plants and animals could cause genetic changes that may have unexpected, negative effects that could even lead to the extinction of the original plant or animal.
Still, more nutritious, delicious, longer-lasting, faster-growing and disease-resistant foods are being developed, leading more Americans, especially during a tough economy, to choose the cheapest foods regardless of where they may have come from. In fact, many consumers may not even realize that the produce they're buying is genetically modified. According to a 2006 Pew research study, consumer awareness of genetically-modified food is “relatively low.”