When people refer to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), they are referring to precision plant breeding using genetic engineering. It allows plant breeders to take a desirable trait (like resistance to drought, insects, weeds, and disease) from one plant or organism and transfer it to the plant they want to improve, as well as make a change to an existing trait in a plant they are developing. You may have also heard of agricultural biotechnology or biotech seeds. These are terms that may be used to refer to the same thing – a genetically modified organism (GMO).
Posted below is a five minute video that offers a great visual illustration on how GMOs are made:
Nearly all foods today have been genetically modified or altered in some way over thousands of years through selective breeding. There are only nine commercially available GMO crops in the U.S: soybeans, corn (field and sweet), canola, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, summer squash, papaya and potatoes. GMO apples have also been approved and will be coming to market soon.
These nine are the only GMO crops that are commercially available, but it is also important to note that many of these crops are ingredients in other types of food you may find in your local grocery store.
The GM salmon was recently approved by the FDA and is the first GMO food animal to be approved and commercially available. The salmon was genetically modified for a few reasons including to conserve wild fish populations and provide low impact aquaculture. Read more about this first GMO animal, why and how it was created here.
See the full Get To Know GMOs presentation on myths and facts about GMOs and how food is modified here.
To better understand why GMOs were initially created in agriculture and the evolution of crop modification we encourage you to read more here.
If you have any additional questions, please ask!