What Exactly Is Genetically Modified Food?

What Is Genetically Modified Food

The term “GMO” (Genetically Modified Organism) is quite the controversial topic these days, but what exactly does it mean when we’re talking about genetically modified food?

Simply put, genetic modification involves splicing the genes from one organism into another.  For example, splicing genes from an arctic flounder into a tomato plant to make the tomato more resistant to cold temperatures, thus giving it a longer growing season.  However, in nature, these types of modifications would never happen (a cow wouldn’t mate with a pig; a tomato plant wouldn’t cross-pollinate with rice plants; etc.).

The main arguments in favor of these genetic modifications are to gain bigger crop yields and use fewer pesticides.  In theory, these ideas sound great, but unfortunately it’s not that simple.  First of all, the biggest concern is safety.  GMOs haven’t been around that long, and we have no idea of the long-term effects of using and consuming genetically modified foods.  Numerous countries around the world have banned or severely limited the use of GMO ingredients in their food supplies.

In the US, on the other hand, the FDA has approved production of GMOs based on safety studies conducted by the companies that are producing and profiting from the GMOs themselves.    What’s worse is that our country does not require foods containing GMOs to be labeled – so not only do consumers not know what they are buying, they also cannot accurately track how these ingredients may be affecting their overall longterm health.

One big safety concern is the use of herbicides and pesticides on GMO crops.  Although one of the main “bonuses” of using GMOs is the lack of necessity for these chemicals, in practice, conventional farmers can (and do) spray their entire fields with herbicides and pesticides, knowing that the crops will be safe.  In the past, they would’ve had to be more careful and selective, but now, they can use these chemicals liberally and blindly.

So, how can you avoid GMOs in your food?  Buy organic!  Organic agriculture prohibits the use of any GMOs.

Image: tiloo

About the Author:


Leah McDermott is a former teacher turned stay-at-home mama and small business owner. She spends her days chasing a toddler, cooking, crafting, writing, caring for animals, gardening, and enjoying time with her husband and son on their small farm in rural PA. She blogs at Crunchy Farm Baby.


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