Two major advantages to the use of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are increased crop yields and resistance to pests and diseases. Genetic modification does not always involve the use of chemicals and can sometimes be accomplished through grafting, selective breeding and cross-breeding.
Genetically modified organisms can have a positive impact for both producers and consumers. From an economic standpoint, GMOs can increase crop yields, making farmers more efficient. These increases in yield can be a result of a broad range of genetic advantages bred into the crop. For example, a variety of lettuce that has heightened resistance to cold and frost could mean that the farmer is able to retain a greater harvest after an early frost damages a large portion of a plot.
One well-known example of genetic modification proving advantageous to consumers and producers is the use of American rootstock in vineyards during the late nineteenth century. After shipping rootstock to Europe from America, an outbreak of a highly aggressive aphid called Phylloxera decimated European vineyards. After noticing that American vineyards were not nearly as susceptible to the insect, wine makers started grafting their vines onto New World roots. As a result, the European market was able to almost fully recover from the outbreak.
However, a lack of definitive scientific data regarding the safety of the genes used to create GMOs presents uncertainty regarding safety concerns. Another potential disadvantage is that crops modified to withstand higher doses of pesticides will invariably present the risk of more chemicals remaining on the food once it reaches the consumer. Therefore, not only could the genes used to modify organisms be harmful in their own right, but chemicals added during production could also present risks.