Can These GMO Foods Save the World?

Not all GM foods are apples modified to be a brighter shade of red.
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It would be somewhat of an understatement to say that genetically modified (GMO) foods have gotten a bit of a bad rap in recent years, on The Daily Meal, among other places. But from drought-resistant corn to virus-resistant squash, some can potentially have quite a positive impact on the world.

Genetically modified foods have worked their way into our lives pretty firmly by this point, largely due to companies like Monsanto, Aventis, and Syngenta. GM fruits and vegetables stay ripe longer, grow better in a wider range of conditions, and are more resistant to disease. Unfortunately, however, the primary beneficiaries of the positive benefits of these foods have been the companies that created them, not the people who may potentially need them the most. According to a 2008 article in Science, "No conclusive evidence was found that GM crops have so far offered solutions to the broader socioeconomic dilemmas faced by developing countries."

Drought-Tolerant Corn
This one has some obvious benefits: researches have been able to engineer a breed of corn that can survive long periods of water deprivation. A couple different varieties are on the market and already in use, and the one sold by Monsanto, called DroughtGard, added the same gene that bacteria use to continue growing in cold environments. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/ ThinkstockClick Here to see More of the GMO Foods That Could Save the World
Blight-Resistant Potatoes
Late blight has long been the bane of potato farmers’ existence; the fungus-like pathogen was responsible for the Irish potato harvest being decimated in the 1800s. Ireland’s agricultural agency, Teagasc, has been hard at work developing a potato that’s been genetically modified to resist blight, and once it’s tested and approved, it could do away with the plague that destroys about a fifth of the world’s annual potato harvest. Photo Credit: Liquidlibrary/ Thinkstock
Virus-Resistant Papaya
Papaya ringspot virus has historically seriously lowered yields of papaya crops, and throughout the 1990s researchers worked to develop a cultivar that was resistant to it. In 1999 the first virus-resistant papayas were grown in Hawaii (they elicit an immune-like response to the virus), and today they’re approved for consumption in both the U.S. and Canada. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/ ThinkstockClick Here to see More of the GMO Foods That Could Save the World
Insect-Resistant Eggplant
The Bt bacteria has also been effectively worked into the DNA of eggplant, which sees up to 40 percent of yearly crop loss due to a pest called the “fruit and shoot borer.” The natural insecticide has been found to be non-toxic to fish, chickens, rabbits, goats, rats, and cattle.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/ Thinkstock
Virus-Resistant Squash
The second GE crop to be cleared by U.S. regulators (after papaya), a breed of squash called Freedom II was engineered to be resistant to two viruses. Today six varieties of virus-resistant squash and zucchini are being sold in the U.S. Click Here to see More of the GMO Foods That Could Save the WorldPhoto Credit: iStockPhoto/ Thinkstock

Anti-GMO sentiment and tight restrictions are a large part of the reason why these crops aren't making their way to poor nations, but another reason why they're not very helpful is the fact that cash crops like corn and wheat are the ones that are most commonly genetically modified, as opposed to the staple crops poor countries need, like cassava and sorghum. Those who develop GMO crops are looking to make a profit first, and if they happen to help out developing nations, that's a happy coincidence.

Not all GM foods are apples modified to be a brighter shade of red. Some really have the potential to feed millions of people in developing nations, and offer everything from resistance to disease and insects to a higher nutritive value. Read on to learn about 11 genetically modified foods that just might save the world.

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