Fast Facts

Did you know that …

Genetic modification is a natural process?

The vast majority of all GM-crops are developed using a natural DNA-transfer mechanism of Agrobacterium tumefaciens. In nature this bacterium infects plants and transfers a part of its bacterial DNA to the plant’s genome. The bacterial DNA is stably incorporated in the plant DNA and carries the information for the production of Agrobacterium’s food. It is one of the most beautiful and intriguing tricks of evolution. A bacterium forces a plant to produce its food by incorporating the necessary genetic information (the “menu”) into the DNA of the plant. Molecular biologists have unravelled this infection process in the 1970’s and had the brilliant idea to use Agrobacterium as DNA transporter. After replacing the specific bacterial DNA fragment with a gene of interest, Agrobacterium delivers the gene of interest to the plant.
A genetically modified plant should be perceived as a plant that received extra genetic information, in a similar way as a smartphone on which a new app was downloaded.


Did you know that …

Europe had a pioneering role in plant biotechnology?

Ghent University (Belgium) and Leiden University (The Netherlands) had a leading role in unravelling the infection process of Agrobacterium. The team of Marc Van Montagu and Jeff Schell (Belgium) was also amongst the first labs that developed the first genetically modified plants. In 1986, GM crops were tested for the first time in the field in France and in the USA. In 1990 more than 40% of all field trials worldwide were performed in Europe.
However, over the years, Europe completely lost its pioneering role. Today Europa cultivates only 0.13 of the 170 million hectares of GM crops. Anti-GMO campaigns (e.g. misinforming the public at large and destructions of legally approved field trials) and a regulatory process that became stricter along the years are determinant factors.


Did you know that …

GM technology is not science-fiction but instead just one of the many technological optimisations of food production that can help in finding answers to the huge agricultural challenges we are facing?

Agriculture is a complex field and it would be an over-simplification to see the GM technology as the only way of increasing food quality and food quantity AND to reduce the pressure on the environment caused by agriculture. We must move towards an integrated agricultural model that combines the best aspects of conventional agriculture with the best aspects of organic farming, but with the use of the latest technologies, including the targeted genetic modification of crops. GM is not a way of farming, instead it is a breeding method that introduces additional genetic variability which that can be incorporated in every farming system and from which the environment and society can benefit.