Genetically modified (GM) plants are those whose genomes have been modified by the introduction of foreign DNA constructs derived from bacteria, fungi, viruses, or animals. The most common genetically modified plants include soybeans, maize/corn, rapeseed mustard, potatoes, cotton, sugarcane, tomato, rice, and aspen/Populus.
In this chapter, we list 16 goals of genetic engineers in developing GM plants. These are plants that manifest frost hardiness; insect and herbicide tolerance; virus resistance; altered starch, cellulose, and lignin production; altered levels and kinds of oils and proteins in seed crops; higher levels of antioxidants in edible fruits, synthesis of new metabolites like beta-carotene in rice grains and vaccines in non-edible plants; and sequestration of hazardous wastes from polluted (“brown field”) areas.
The next section of this chapter includes a discussion of the purported benefits and risks of GM plants. Our goal here is to present this information in as balanced a fashion as possible.
Lastly, we address important questions and answers concerning GM plants and food products.
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