The acronym GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism and is used to describe the crop varieties in which DNA has been altered by genetic engineering to give the crop new properties. The most common example of a GMO is the soybean.
Most of the soybean crops grown throughout the United States are genetically modified to be resistant to herbicides. By growing these herbicide resistant crops, the farmer can spray the fields with weed killers, and the “super weeds” will die, but the soybean crop will be unaffected. This allows the farmer to apply herbicides to the soybean crops more frequently, and limits the need to till the soil.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. In most cases, the purpose of this genetic alteration is to introduce a new trait to the organism. The first GMOs were bacteria in the 1970’s, followed by the first plant GMOs in 1982.
Official Definition of (GM) Organisms and GM Foods
Genetically modified organism (GMO) refers to plants or animals that have had their DNA altered in a way that does not occur naturally, using genetic engineering. The goal is usually to produce a plant or animal with a desirable trait, such as resistance to disease, that cannot be produced through conventional breeding.
Genetic modification is accomplished by taking a gene from a different organism and inserting it into the target organism. This process is known as transgenesis. The new gene is incorporated into the target organism’s genome and changes the way the organism looks or acts. To date, scientists have demonstrated that transgenesis can be used to introduce a variety of new plant and animal traits into many different organisms, including plants, animals, bacteria, and protozoa.
One of the key reasons for using genetic modification is to make an organism more resistant to disease, insects, or other environmental factors. GM technology has been used to develop plants
The organisms we know as GM foods have been engineered to have changes in their DNA. This change is used to make GM foods more resistant to pests or herbicides which is what makes them different from non-GM foods. The following paragraphs will first discuss the definition of both GM foods and organisms, and then the official definition.
A strong argument for GMO health safety
At first glance, it seems like there is a strong argument against GMO health safety. After all, genetically engineered foods have been shown to cause tumors in rats, and the herbicide that is used on such crops is tied to cancer. These facts, however, have been misrepresented by people who are ideologically opposed to genetic engineering.
The anti-GMO movement has been gaining momentum in recent years—and for good reason. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been a major source of controversy ever since they were first introduced over 25 years ago.
Early concerns about their safety have snowballed, reaching a fever pitch by the mid-2000s. The major criticism of GMOs today is that they are not adequately tested and pose risks to human and environmental health.
A strong argument for GMO health safety is that there is no scientific proof that they are harmful. A 2009 report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) stated that the process of genetic modification is no more risky than conventional breeding.
The report states that the larger issue of pesticide use in farming is more important than food safety risks caused by genetic modification.
Not all genetically engineered crops are created equal. Some are created to be disease resistant, some are created to help in the fight against world hunger, and some are simply created to improve the crop’s natural resistance to pesticides, which protects the crops from pests that would otherwise destroy the entire harvest.
The latter example is where the most controversy occurs, though, since the plants are sprayed with weed killers that include chemicals that are considered a possible human carcinogen, and the FDA does not require that they be labeled.
Why would anyone around the world want to buy and consume genetically modified food?
There are several reasons. The first reason is that GMO food is more cost effective. This is based upon the fact that the GMO products does not require the use of many types of insecticides which can save up to 15% of the cost of production.
The Limits of Non-GMO Labeling
Biology is complex and full of nuance. We’re discovering that even when we think we understand how a plant’s genes work, we may not. The term “non-GMO” sounds like it means one thing, but in fact there are many different types of genetic modification, and some are more controversial than others. It’s like having a Non-Smoker label on the cover of a book and assuming the entire book is about quitting smoking. It makes sense to look deeper.
The Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization, aims to make sure that products labeled as non-GMO actually live up to that distinction. Unfortunately, the Non-GMO Project’s standards are loose enough that most food products can bear the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label, even if they contain ingredients that are not considered genetically modified but which can still provoke allergic reactions and other health problems.
Whether you’re trying to avoid GMOs or eating fewer pesticides, you can’t do much better than choosing certified organic foods. That’s because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) imposes strict limits on the use of toxic pesticides for all certified organic foods.
And, since organic food is not genetically modified (GMO), you can rest assured that everything on the label is just as described.
Today, over 80% of processed foods in the United States are made with genetically engineered ingredients, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Yet, only a few companies voluntarily label their products as “Non-GMO”, even though this labeling carries no legal weight. Consumer demand for GMOs is growing, and non-GMO food sales have risen by more than 25% from 2012 to 2013.
It’s hard to know how to feel about genetically modified foods. On the one hand, we do know that they’re safe for consumption. On the other, we don’t know that they’re safe for consumption. And more to the point, we don’t know what the effects of the consumption will be on our bodies. It’s this last point—the effect on our bodies—that is most concerning to me.