GMO Basics


 

What are GMOs? Are GMOs safe? Why do farmers grow GMO crops?  We know there are a lot of questions regarding GMOs, Genetically Modified Organisms. Let’s start with the basics. 

What Are GMOs?

When people refer to genetically modified organisms - GMOs - they are referring to crops developed through genetic engineering, a more precise method of plant breeding.  Genetic engineering, also referred to as biotechnology, allows plant breeders to take a desirable trait found in nature and transfer it from one plant or organism to the plant they want to improve, as well as make a change to an existing trait in a plant they are developing.  Some examples of desirable traits commonly transferred include resistance to insects and disease and tolerance to herbicides that allow farmers to better control weeds.

 

what is gmo

Why Grow GMOs?

GMOs are created to achieve a desired trait, such as resistance to a pest or tolerance to drought conditions.  The nine genetically modified crops available today include: sweet and field corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, potatoes, and squash.  GM apples have been approved and will be commercially available in Fall 2017.  GM crops were created for:

  • Insect resistance. This category of traits provides farmers with season-long protection against target pests, reduces the need for pesticide applications, and lowers input costs.
  • Drought tolerance. GM crops that express drought tolerance have better moisture retention and can better endure drought conditions without the need for additional irrigation.
  • Herbicide tolerance. Crops developed to tolerate specific herbicides allow farmers to fight weeds by applying targeted herbicides only when needed and enable them to use conservation tillage production methods that preserve topsoil, prevent erosion, and reduce carbon emissions.
  • Disease resistance. Through genetic engineering plant breeders can enable plants to resist certain diseases, like the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV).  The GM Rainbow Papaya, developed to be resistant to PRSV, allowed Hawaiian papaya farmers to recover from an outbreak of this devastating disease that crippled their industry.
  • Enhanced nutritional content. Genetically modified soybeans with an enhanced oil profile, much like olive oil, have been developed and are longer lasting and trans-fat free.
  • Reduced food waste. Genetic engineering has been used to modify potatoes and apples in order to eliminate superficial browning and bruising (potato only) when the produce is cut or handled.  These traits can help reduce the amount of produce thrown away by producers, processors, retailers and consumers.
  • Improved manufacturing processes. Certain biotech corn varieties enable more efficient biofuels production by improving the process through which cellulose and/or starch is broken down and converted to fuel.  This helps reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing process by decreasing the amount of water, electricity, and natural gas needed to produce biofuel.

What Crops Are GMOs?

The nine genetically modified crops available today include: sweet and field corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, potatoes, and squash.  GM apples have been approved and will be commercially available in Fall 2017.

Have more questions about GMOs? Ask us! 

Infographics & Downloadables

INFOGRAPHIC: The History of Genetic Modification in Crops

INFOGRAPHIC: Are GMOs Safe?

HANDOUT: GMO Answers Informational Guide

PRESENTATION: Get to Know GMOs

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More Information for GMO Basics

GMO Myths vs. Facts

There are many myths and misconceptions about GMOs. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common myths and learn about the facts: MYTH:There are dozens of GMO crops, including strawberries, bananas and wheat.There is even GMO water and GMO salt. FACT:There are nine genetically modified crops commercially available today: sweet and field corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, potatoes, and squash. GM apples have been approved and will be commercially available soon. This chartexplains why each of the nine GMO crops are genetically modified. The majority of these crops, like alfalfa, field corn and soy are actually used...
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Where GMOs Are Grown

Think only U.S. farmers grow GMO crops? You might be surprised to know that while each country has its own regulatory process for both the cultivation and sale of GM products, as of 2016, GMOs are grown, imported and/or used in more than 75 countries across the globe. As of 2015, 2.0 billion cumulative hectares of biotech crops have been planted since 1996. This includes a wide [no-lexicon]variety[/no-lexicon] of crops and countries, including maize in Spain, Bt cotton in Sudan, eggplant in Bangladesh, soybeans in Bolivia and more. The top five countries planting biotech crops by hectarage are the U.S., Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada. A single GM...
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Current GMO Crops

The nine genetically modified crops available today: sweet and field corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, potatoes, and squash. GM apples have been approved and will be commercially available in Fall 2017. Below is a list outlining the year in which the nine crops that are currently commercially available were launched: Squash, 1995 Cotton, 1996 Soybean, 1995 Corn, 1996 Papaya, 1997 Alfalfa, 2006 Sugar beets, 2006 Canola, 1999 Potato, 2016 Apples, to be released in Fall 2017 The list below identifies the genetic traits expressed and uses of the 10 GMO crops approved in the U.S. These 10 crops are the only GMOs that are approved in the U...
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How GMOs Are Made

Farmers have selectively cultivated plants for thousands of years, choosing a plant, for example, based on its ability to survive certain conditions or on how many seeds it produces.Farmers also sought to improve plants by crossing them with related species that had other desirable characteristics. This type of selective, or traditional, breeding involves crossing thousands of genes. Genetically modified organisms are the product of a targeted process where a few select genes are transferred into a plant to produce a desired trait. When scientists create a genetically modified plant, the process begins by identifying a desired trait.That trait may be...
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