dnv89's picture
It is my understanding as a graduate student in molecular anthropology that we consider anything that has been domesticated as a GMO, because domestication is one of the earliest forms of genetic engineering. I was wondering whenever I hear GMOs rightfully being defended, none of the experts ever point this out. Why is it?

A:Expert Answer

I agree that it has essentially has been a lapse on scientists’ part not to express this “truth” whenever appropriate. I believe that allowing the definition of “GMO” to be limited to the use of modern scientific technologies has, over time, caused its placement within the context of genetic improvement to be lost. Especially for non-specialists, there seems to be a tendency to not understand that all foodstuff contain DNA and with no to few exceptions, were and are deliberately modified by humankind.
At first, the modifications were accomplished without understanding the underlying genetic mechanisms, but without doubt, they were deliberate. Later, we learned more and improvement became accelerated. Keep in mind that still, we do not understand everything about genetic function and gene expression and may never do so. It has dumbfounded some to hear that all organic crops are produced from bred (i.e., heavily modified) cultivars, often to the point of disbelief.
I present the following text on a slide in all of my presentations, and in fact, did so just this week at the annual meeting for the American Society of Horticultural Science.
Basic Tenets of Crop Improvement
1.    Without exception, all crops utilized for food and fiber were genetically improved by man.
2.    Crops like corn didn’t even exist in nature and only evolved through our deliberate actions.
3.    Improved crop plants have fed the world.
4.    Further improvement is urgently required to meet current and future demands.