The new data, published in Nature Biotechnology, suggests that while the majority of developments in genetically modified crops provide no additional health benefit to the consumer, those that do have good market potential.
Led by Hans De Steur of Ghent University, the team behind the research said various GM crops with health benefits have been developed – with notable examples including rice enriched with pro-vitamin A (also known as 'Golden Rice') and folate-enriched rice, developed at Ghent University.
“Fifteen years after the development of 'Golden Rice', which was the first GMO with health benefits, the developers of such transgenic biofortified crops have little reason to celebrate,” said the team. “To date, none of these GMOs are approved for cultivation, unlike GMOs with agronomic traits.”
Despite these regulatory hurdles, six major staple crops have been successfully biofortified with one, or more, vitamins or minerals.
Now the research team has ‘convincingly demonstrated’ that there is a strong market potential for such products – showing that consumers are willing to pay more for GM food with health benefits, with premiums ranging from 20% to 70%.
“This differs from GMOs with farmer benefits, which are only accepted by consumers when they are offered at a discount,” said the team.
The team added that although GM foods with health benefits ‘are not a panacea’ for eliminating malnutrition, they do offer a complementary and cost-effective alternative when other strategies are less successful or feasible.
Source: Nature Biotechnology
Voume 33, Pages 25–29, doi:10.1038/nbt.3110
"Status and market potential of transgenic biofortified crops"
Authors: Hans De Steur, et al