The first GE plants had new characteristics that made them resistant to environmental conditions. One of the very first improved crops through genetic engineering saved the papaya industry in Hawaii.
Anyone who has ever been to Hawaii has been introduced to this wonderful, orange, creamy-fleshed fruit. However, if not for genetic engineering, this fruit would not be available.
Another example of how GE can help the environment (and farmers and consumers) is through control of insects.
Organic farmers use a bacterium to combat insects by sprinkling the bacterium on the leaves of their plants. Genetic Engineers took this a few steps further by taking the bacterium’s genes (called Bt genes) that kill insects and putting them directly into the plant. The bacterium has more than 50 genes that kill insects.
By learning which ones kill which insects, scientists can make the plant resistant to their most damaging predators. Bt genes in corn, cotton, soybeans and eggplant (as well as other traits) have removed 6 million tons of pesticides from the environment.