Want disease-free grapes? Add a silkworm gene. How about vitamin-enhanced rice? While technology promises new ways to help feed the world, some see risks to the land and to human health.
Scientists continue to find new ways to insert genes for specific traits into plant and animal DNA. A field of promise—and a subject of debate—genetic engineering is changing the food we eat and the world we live in.
In the brave new world of genetic engineering, Dean DellaPenna envisions this cornucopia: tomatoes and broccoli bursting with cancer-fighting chemicals and vitamin-enhanced crops of rice, sweet potatoes, and cassava to help nourish the poor. He sees wheat, soy, and peanuts free of allergens; bananas that deliver vaccines; and vegetable oils so loaded with therapeutic ingredients that doctors "prescribe" them for patients at risk for cancer and heart disease. A plant biochemist at Michigan State University, DellaPenna believes that genetically engineered foods are the key to the next wave of advances in agriculture and health.