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Oct. 16 was the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) World Food Day. According to FAO, more than one billion people in the world suffer from chronic hunger.

One way to reduce hunger is to grow certain genetically modified (GM) foods. These foods are a safe, healthy way to combat hunger and keep groceries affordable.

Common GM crops are pest-resistant corn and soybeans. Crops can also be engineered to be drought-tolerant or resistant to certain viruses. These changes help plants grow more efficiency in many environments. When a crop resists pests or disease, farmers can harvest more food. With a plentiful food supply, food prices will go down.

GM technology also helps people grow more food locally. Many countries lack the infrastructure to get safe, nutritious food to the people who need it. Drought-resistant GM crops can thrive in normally hostile environments, and people can reduce food wastage by raising crops modified to resist pests.

Scientists regularly test GM foods for safety. There have been over 200 studies comparing GM food and non-GM food in at least 15 animal species. Scientists have made no significant connections between GM foods on the market and any diseases or growth disorders.

In fact, GM crops can keep people healthy. In many parts of the world, people go blind because of a lack of vitamin A in their diets. Vitamin A deficiencies also leave people more susceptible to common diseases. To solve this global health issue, scientists have created “golden rice. ” Golden rice produces beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible part of grain. Sadly, despite many safety tests, golden rice is not available for human consumption.

In the future, GM animal products could keep people healthy. Recently, researchers in New Zealand announced the creation of a cow that produces milk that does not contain a protein called beta-lactoglobulin. This protein is thought to trigger allergic reactions in some people. This new milk is not on the market, but its creation shows just how important GM foods can be.

Learn more about World Food Day

Learn how genetic modification works

Photo from the International Rice Research Institute