Thank you for your question regarding the basics of GMOs. Our experts have answered similar questions in the past – please see below for a comprehensive overview on this topic which should help address your question.
There are a couple important topics to address first that will help answer your question. There is no specific person or entity(s) that create GMOs. Many different farmers and companies have the option to plant GM crops.
WHAT IS A GMO?
When people refer to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), they are referring to precision plant breeding using genetic engineering. t 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).
GMOs are created to achieve a desired trait, such as resistance to an insect or improvement to the ripening process, in order to better meet a customer’s needs.
Posted below is a five minute video that offers a great visual illustration on how GMOs are made:
WHAT CROPS ARE GENETICALLY MODIFIED?
The nine GMO crops available today are sweet and field corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, potato and squash. Apples are approved and coming to market soon.
GMOs can have one or a few genes added, moved or turned off to achieve the desired trait. This video explains how genetic engineering was used to make the Hawaiian papaya resistant to the deadly papaya ring spot virus. Curious what this all looks like? See the differences between genetic engineering and traditional breeding in this infographic.
Crops are genetically modified to achieve a desired trait, such as resistance to an insect or disease. More detail on some of the traits crops are genetically modified to achieve and how they are beneficial to farming is included below:
• Insect resistance. This trait provides farmers with season-long protection against target pests, reduces the need for pesticide applications, and lowers input costs.
• Drought resistance. GM crops that express drought resistance can grow in much drier areas, conserving water and other environmental resources.
• Herbicide tolerance. Crops that can tolerate specific herbicides allow farmers to fight weeds by applying herbicides only when needed and enable them to use no-till production methods that preserve topsoil, prevent erosion, and reduce carbon emissions.
• Disease resistance. Through genetic modification, the Hawaiian papaya industry was able to recover from the devastating papaya ringspot virus that had crippled the industry. We created a video to explain this in more detail here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G-yUuiqIZ0
For a more in-depth explanation of what GMOs are and why they are created, we encourage you to read more about them here. This post answers more tough questions surrounding GMOs and better explains the reason biotechnology is incorporated into agriculture.
• Learn the ABC’s of GMOs from the Seattle Times here.
• Follow our GMO Basic Pinterest board.
• Understand more about what foods are GMOs here.
• Check out these side-by-side images of GMO crops and their non-GMO counterparts.
• Discover six surprising facts about GMOs here.
If you have any other questions about GMOs or biotechnology, please ask!