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5 Benefits of Biotechnology in Food

September 20, 2022 - Ellie Poverly

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Technology is changing virtually every aspect of daily life, including the food you eat. Biotechnology in food is a centuries-old practice, but recent advancements could transform the agriculture and food industries.

Practices like selective crop breeding and fermentation are some of the oldest and most familiar examples of biotechnology in food. Now, gene editing and other advanced bioengineering technologies are unlocking new possibilities and expanding this field’s potential. Here are five ways we can benefit from these technologies.

1. Food Security

One of the most important advances of biotechnology in food is fighting hunger. Roughly 870 million people around the globe lack sufficient access to nutritious food, and growing populations could exacerbate this issue. Biotechnology can help by improving crop yields and preventing waste.

Gene editing lets scientists alter plants’ characteristics, including letting them grow with less water or making them more resilient. Modifying crops like this would help farms produce more food with the same resources, feeding more people despite limited land and water.

Similarly, genetically modified crops could last longer in transit and on shelves. As less food goes to waste, there will be more to feed hungry people.

2. Sustainability

Similar modifications could help agriculture become more sustainable. Farming consumes 69% of global freshwater and contributes heavily to habitat destruction and pollution. Bioengineering crops to require fewer resources while producing larger yields would help mitigate this impact.

Bioengineered plants can resist disease and pests without fertilizers or pesticides, removing any risks associated with these chemical pollutants. Similarly, they could let farmers grow the same amount or more while using less water and land.

Artificial meat is another area of food biotechnology that could improve sustainability. Growing meat substitutes in a lab environment could provide the same nutritional value without meat’s high carbon footprint.

3. Health

Biotechnology can also improve people’s health. Alternative meat products are a prime example of this benefit. Biotech-derived meat substitutes can provide the flavor and texture consumers expect with beef or pork while reducing fat and offering more nutrients.

Genetic modification can improve the health benefits of plants, too. Genetically modified soybeans, which make up 94% of all soybeans planted in the U.S., often contain healthier oils with less trans fat. These trends and similar changes help farmers provide crops that taste the same but suit people’s nutritional needs better.

4. Longevity

Another important benefit of biotechnology in food is improving its longevity. Food waste is a significant problem today, both in terms of economics and global access to nutrition. Bioengineering can help reduce this waste by making crops more resilient while growing, in transit and on supermarket shelves.

For example, genetically modified crops can stop ripening after harvest. As a result, they stay in prime condition longer, instead of a few-day window in which they’re ready to eat. Grocery stores will have to throw out less food as a result, saving money and ensuring all production goes to consumption.

5. Cost Savings

Many of these other advantages feed into secondary economic benefits. As crops become more resilient against diseases, farmers face fewer losses. Considering how some crop diseases cost countries as much as $300 million in annual revenue, these savings can be significant.

Biotechnology also reduces operating expenses for farmers. Since genetic modification minimizes the need for pesticides and can reduce water consumption, they require less spending on resources to grow. As a result, farms can maximize their profit margins without raising the prices of the food they produce.

As the operating expenses fall and crop yields increase, it could result in lower consumer prices. The food industry would become more affordable and cost-effective for every party involved.

Biotechnology in Food Is Essential for the Future

Biotechnology in food provides solutions to many of agriculture’s most pressing issues today. As these technologies advance, these benefits will only increase and new opportunities will emerge.

As populations grow and resources deplete, these benefits will become crucial. In light of these trends, food biotechnology could become a critical part of the survival of both humans and the world they inhabit.

Revolutionized is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn more here.

Author

Ellie Poverly

Ellie Poverly is a science writer specializing in astronomy and environmental science and is the Associate Editor of Revolutionized. Ellie's love of science stems from reading Richard Dawkins books and her favorite science magazine as a child, where she fell in love with the experiments included in each edition

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