G-M-O. You probably know what it stands for: genetically modified organisms. I know there’s been a lot of controversy around it. You might think it’s unnatural, that’s it’s bad for your health. Others say that it’s actually a cool technique to make crop production more efficient. So, is it good or is it bad?
GMO – How Are GMOs Made?
“GMO” (genetically modified organism) has become the common term consumers and popular media use to describe foods that have been created through genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is a process that involves:
- Identifying the genetic information—or “gene”—that gives an organism (plant, animal, or microorganism) a desired trait
- Copying that information from the organism that has the trait
- Inserting that information into the DNA of another organism
- Then growing the new organism
Eating Foods From GMO Crops
Only a few types of GMO crops are grown in the United States, but some of these GMOs make up a large percentage of the crop grown (e.g., soybeans, corn, sugar beets, canola, and cotton).
Most GMO plants are used to make ingredients that are then used in other food products, for example, cornstarch made from GMO corn or sugar made from GMO sugar beet.
Farmers and GMO Crops
Most of the GMO crops grown today were developed to help farmers prevent crop loss. The three most common traits found in GMO crops are:
- Resistance to insect damage
- Tolerance to herbicides
- Resistance to plant viruses
- Resistant to drought, easing the demand for water
Not Just In Your Food
Cotton can also be ‘GMO’d’, and as a result, a whole ton of other everyday items have GMO ingredients in them.5 Sheets, towels, clothes, you name it, if it’s cotton, GMO could be in there too. It doesn’t stop at cotton though. GMOs can be found in a bunch of other products. Alcohol can be made from GM corn and soy, so as a result GM can be found in toiletries, hand sanitizer, ink, gasoline – the list is as surprising and diverse as it comes.
GMO VS. HYBRID
One of the key points is that hybrid plants aren’t the same as GMOs. “Hybrid seeds come from pollen exchange within the same species, directed by human hands. GMO seeds are genetically engineered by modifying genes from unrelated species in a laboratory.
Pros of GMO
The pros of GMO crops are that they may contain more nutrients, are grown with fewer pesticides, and are usually cheaper than their non-GMO counterparts.
Cons of GMO
One of the major disadvantages of GMO corn is its potential to trigger allergies. First, genetic material from a potentially allergenic food may be transferred to corn, also transferring the allergenic properties. Secondly, genetic modification alters the actual DNA of the corn. This process introduces new proteins into the food supply that are not naturally present, opening the door for a new allergy to be developed.
Who Can Buy GMO Seeds
There are currently no genetically modified garden seeds available for sale to the general public. When farmers choose to purchase GM seed, they sign an agreement stating that they will use the seed solely for the planting of one commercial crop.