GMO Basics

By • January 16, 2015

Excerpt from publication originally posted at Sense About Science.

"Introduction: Why Make Sense of Uncertainty?

"Scientific uncertainty is prominent in research that has big implications for our society: could the Arctic be ice-free in summer by 2080? Will a new cancer drug be worth its side effects? Is this strain of ‘flu going to be a dangerous epidemic? 

"Uncertainty is normal currency in scientific research. Research goes on because we don’t know everything. Researchers then have to estimate how much of the picture is known and how confident we can all be that their findings tell us what’s happening or what’s going to happen. This is uncertainty. But in public discussion scientific uncertainty is presented as a deficiency of research. We want (even expect) certainty – safety, effective public policies, useful public expenditure. 

"Uncertainty is seen as worrying, and even a reason to be cynical about scientific research – particularly on subjects such as climate science, the threat of disease or the prediction of natural disasters. In some discussions, uncertainty is taken by commentators to mean that anything could be true, including things that are highly unlikely or discredited, or that nothing is known. This conflict frustrates us at Sense About Science, and we know that it frustrates researchers we work with and the public we hear from. Some clearer ideas about what researchers mean by scientific uncertainty – and where uncertainty can be measured and where it can’t – would help everyone with how to respond to the uncertainty in evidence. 

"This guide has brought together specialists in many areas – climate science, clinical research, natural hazard prediction, public health, biostatistics and epidemiology. We asked them for the reasons why they are not automatically so troubled by the presence of uncertainty in the most heated debates. We have looked at what uncertainty means and doesn’t mean in science, how it is measured, when it can’t be measured and how that might change through research into the big questions. Above all we asked how other people can grapple constructively with advances in knowledge and changes in thinking, instead of despairing at ‘those uncertain scientists’."

Read the full publication, "Making Sense of Uncertainty:Why uncertainty is part of science" here [PDF].


QHow can we be sure that longer term effects which cannot yet be detected, like recidivism/regression (loss of beneficial traits), or unexpected nth-generation mutation (either due to de-stabilised genetics, or wider environment influences such as other pl

How can we be sure that longer term effects which cannot yet be detected, like recidivism/regression (loss of beneficial traits), or unexpected nth-generation mutation (either due to de-stabilised genetics, or wider environment influences such as other plants or organisms) dont happen 20 or 30 years down the line?

By • October 05, 2018

This post was originally published on GMO Answers' Medium page.

(Image credit: GMO Answers)

Throughout the quarter century that GMOs have been a part of our food supply, they have been proven safe time and again by the leading scientific authorities around the world. Yet, a recently released YouGov survey found that the majority of Americans are still confused about GMOs and are concerned about the health and safety implications of the technology.

However, concern and confusion do not equate to rejection, as the survey also found that nearly the same number of Americans want to learn more about GMOs, suggesting a lack of knowledge is driving overall discomfort.

In the spirit of Get to Know GMOs Month this October, we’re breaking down the survey’s top findings and debunking the biggest GMO misperceptions:

69% of U.S. consumers are not confident they know what GMOs are, and less than a third of Americans (32%) say they are comfortable with the use of GMOs in their food products.

Food from GMO crops — which are developed using techniques that enable us to take a beneficial trait (like insect resistance or drought tolerance) from one organism and transfer it into a crop plant — have been consumed for decades without a single food safety incident. The 20+ years of scientific research on GMOs confirms that genetically modified crops are safe to eat, have the same nutrition and composition as non-genetically modified crops, and have no links to new allergies, cancer, celiac or other diseases.

74% of Americans want to learn more about GMOs’ impact on their overall health and 67% are interested in learning more about the overall safety of GMOs.

Again, scientific experts are aligned on the health and safety of GMOs. The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) reviewed more than 900 research and other publications on the effects of GMOs and found no substantiated risks to human health. Recently, the Board of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, voted to support this report as the most reputable and complete scientific analysis available to guide policy decisions.

43% of Americans believe that food (in general) sold in the U.S. is safe for consumption.

Interestingly, Americans are not just skeptical of GMOs, but distrust U.S. food production as a whole, even though the country has the safest food supply in the world.

51% of U.S. consumers are concerned and 42% are confused about the impact of GMOs on the environment.

GMOs can actually reduce the environmental impact of farming and deliver a host of other sustainability benefits, such as helping to reduce food waste and improve air quality. In 2015 alone, nearly 60 billion pounds of atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by conservation tillage and decreased fuel use made possible by genetically modified crops — that’s equal to removing nearly 12 million cars from the roads for one year!

This survey and many others like it indicate that Americans are eager for the truth behind GMOs. At GMO Answers, we will continue to ensure our resources grounded in facts and science are accessible to all in search of answers.

To continue learning more about GMOs or to ask a question of your own and have it answered by an independent expert, click here.

By • October 01, 2018

GMO Answers Releases New Survey Showing Most Americans Remain Confused About GMOs Despite Overwhelming Health & Safety Consensus Among Experts

Survey Kicks Off Annual "Get to Know GMOs Month" & Underscores Widespread Consumer Demand for Facts about GMOs as USDA Finalizes its GMO Labeling Rule

GMO Answers, an initiative committed to responding to consumer questions about how their food is grown, today released the findings of a new YouGov survey finding that a majority of Americans aren’t confident they definitely know what genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are, and that this lack of knowledge may be driving overall uncertainty and discomfort. However, concern and confusion do not equate to rejection, as the survey finds that nearly the same number of Americans want to learn more about GMOs.

Food from GMO crops – which are developed using techniques that enable us to take a beneficial trait (like insect resistance or drought tolerance) from one organism and transfer it into a crop plant – have been consumed for decades, and despite over 20 years of evidence confirming that GMOs are safe for human consumption, widespread misinformation about GMO health and safety remains. GMO Answers conducted the survey to better understand public perceptions of GMOs and launches the findings on the first day of “Get to Know GMOs Month,” an annual event held in October to encourage conversations about GMOs, explain new advancements, and dispel common misconceptions around the health and safety of GMOs.

The survey’s key findings, which come shortly before the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to publish its final bioengineered food disclosure labeling standard, include:

  • 69% of consumers are not confident they know what GMOs are, and less than a third of Americans (32%) say they are comfortable with the use of GMOs in their food products.
  • Roughly 3 in 5 Americans are interested in learning more about GMOs.
    • 74% want to learn more about GMOs’ impact on their overall health.
    • 67% are interested in learning more about the overall safety of GMOs.
  • 43% of consumers believe that food (in general) sold in the US is safe for consumption, meaning there is widespread distrust as a whole when it comes to food production, despite the U.S. having the safest food supply in the world.

“Despite GMOs being part of our food supply for almost a quarter of a century, and global scientific consensus on the health and safety of this technology, Americans remain as confused as ever about how GMOs impact their lives and the world around them,” said Michael Stebbins, Director of External Engagement for the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) and GMO Answers spokesperson. “That is why we at GMO Answers are committed to answering any questions about GMOs with information backed by validated, independent, and peer-reviewed science. We will continue this mission to address GMO concerns and provide the answers consumers are looking for in a transparent and easy-to-access manner.”

All survey figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1213 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th - 14th September 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).

About GMO Answers

GMO Answers is committed to responding to your questions about how our food is grown. Our goal is to make information about agricultural biotechnology easier to access and evaluate. The members of GMO Answers commit to five core principles – welcoming and answering questions on all GMO topics; making GMO information, research and data easy to access and evaluate, and supporting safety testing of GM products, including allowing independent safety testing of our products through validated science-based methods; supporting farmers as they work to grow crops using precious resources more efficiently,  with less impact on the environment and producing safe, nutritious food and feed products; respecting farmers' rights to choose the seeds that are best for their farms, businesses and communities and providing seed choices that include non-GM seeds based on market demands; and respecting people around the world and their right to choose healthy food products that are best for themselves and their families. GMO Answers is produced by the members of the Council for Biotechnology Information, which includes BASF, Bayer CropScience, Corteva Agriscience, and Syngenta. Our members are dedicated to the responsible development and application of plant biotechnology. Visit


By • September 20, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article by Lisa Nowatzki in the Cavalier County Republican discussing the misinformation surrounding GMOs, refering GMO Answers as a resource.

A lack of understanding of genetic engineering (GE) and the processes, namely GE-regulation, have directly caused the loss of millions of lives, mostly women and children.

One example is golden rice, a genetically engineered variety of rice that was designed to contain extra vitamin A and was developed for vitamin A-deficient poor and malnourished populations in Africa, was delayed ten years to accommodate GE-regulations. As a result of the ten-year delay, millions of women and children died.

The term GMO or genetically modified organism is so popular that a quick Google search will yield 53 million hits in less than a second. Since Cavalier County’s population is made up of a high number of farmers and producers, most residents have more than a passing knowledge of GMO and bioengineered products. What about the rest of America? What do they think about bioengineered food?

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 40 percent of Americans believe GMOs are bad for their health although this assertion is not supported by scientific research. The data has overwhelmingly concluded that the genetically modified crops on the market are safe for consumption.

North Dakota farmers and producers have known for years that the bioengineered crops they grow and produce are more than safe. The crops they grow are safe, healthy, and nutritious.

Laura Rutherford, a Grafton farm wife who speaks on behalf of GMO sugar beets, said that the bottom line is American food — organic, conventional or GMO — is all safe, and Americans should have confidence in it.

She said that farmers don’t want the products they work so hard to produce to be unfairly vilified. She noted the GMO issue sometimes is used as a non-tariff trade barrier by the European Union, as it strives to keep its farmers competitive. It’s billed as a food safety issue.

“A lot of times, it’s a fight for market share and a marketing tactic,” she said.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, most consumers don’t know or realize that for decades they have been consuming foods that have been developed through bioengineering including crossbreeding, irradiating, and chemically inducing gene mutations to achieve desired characteristics.

According to the GMO answers website, to date, ten GMO crops are approved and commercially available in the United States. They are alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash, and sugar beets.

In 1995, GMO summer squash, that was genetically altered to be disease resistant, came on the market. Also that same year, soybeans that had been genetically altered to be insect resistant and herbicide tolerant became commercially available. The GMO soybeans are used as livestock and poultry feed, as soybean oil, biodiesel fuel, pet food, adhesives, building materials and other uses.

In 1996, GMO cotton that was genetically altered to be insect resistant and herbicide tolerant became available to consumers. Cotton crops are used as fibers, animal feed, and cottonseed oil.

In 1996, GMO corn that was genetically altered to be insect resistance, herbicide tolerant and drought tolerant came on the market. The corn is used in ethanol and high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners. It is also used in corn oil, starch, cereal, and alcohol.

GMO papaya that was disease resistant went on the market in 1997, and in 1999 GMO canola that had been bred to be herbicide tolerant became commercially available.

In 2006, GMO sugar beets and alfalfa became commercially available. Sugar beets were enhanced to be herbicide tolerant and used in sugar and animal feed. Alfalfa had also been bred to be herbicide tolerant and used in animal feed.

In 2016, GMO potatoes and in 2017, GMO apples came on the market. Potatoes were bred to resist bruising and to be blight resistant. Apples that are non-browning are now commercially available. The website, GMOs in the Grocery Store, has more information.

Another growing and costly trend relating to GMO awareness are the new federal labeling laws that require foodstuff labels to list bioengineered ingredients. With many staples and commodity crops, like GMO sugars and flours, in more than 95 percent of foods produced, changing labels will be very expensive with most of the costs passed down to the consumer.

Detractors say that since the overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that foods from genetically engineered crops are at least as safe as foods from non-GE crops, there appears to be little to no scientific need for the labeling requirements mandated by the new federal law. There are no tangible benefits derived from the anticipated increases in food prices.

Henry Miller of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California contends that the amount of oversight and regulatory scrutiny should be proportional to the risk imposed by bioengineered ingredients. Instead, he argued that the degree of oversight is actually inversely proportional to the risk imposed by GMO ingredients and foods.

Miller also argues that the method used to produce a genetically engineered organism is only important in understanding the characteristics of the product. However, the nature of the process is not a useful criterion for determining whether the product requires less or more oversight.

To read the entire article, please visit the Cavalier County Republican website.

By • August 27, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article by chief editor Rob Wright on the Life Science Leader website discussing the misinformation surrounding GMOs, refering GMO Answers as a resource.

Back in March of this year, a reader of Life Science Leader magazine submitted the above question for our popular monthly Ask The Boardcolumn. Started in our February 2011 issue, the column enables readers to submit questions, which are then posed to a member of Life Science Leader’s editorial advisory board (EAB). Board members are asked to provide a 160-word written response, which is published on p. 8 in our print edition. When receiving the question, “Are genetically modified organisms (GMO) a blessing or a curse?” I thought it might be a little outside the scope of our publication, as we typically focus on the biopharmaceutical and medical device industries. And while GMOs can involve animal, bacteria, plant, and virus genes, we often tend to think of GMOs with the production of food and farms. This made me wonder, did the reader have an axe to grind? Was there some sort of hidden political agenda? I don’t believe so, as the person has worked in the biopharmaceutical industry for more than two decades, and presently serves as the chief medical officer for a CRO. Besides, when you think of the evolution of cell & gene therapy, and the future of personalized medicine, when it comes to GMOs, aren’t we also talking about genetically modifying humans toward improving health? Which then leads to the penultimate question: When it comes to GMOs, are we playing God?

The Controversy Surrounding GMOs 

Since the advent of GMOs in the early 1990s, they have been surrounded by controversy. Genetic engineering differs from conventional plant and animal breeding, as it allows genes to be moved across taxonomic boundaries. Thus, genes cannot be transferred only between closely related organisms (e.g., wheat to rice), but between entirely different organisms (i.e., animals to plants). In conventional breeding, nature imposes limits on genetic recombination between biologically distinct organisms. However, genetic engineering enables the bypassing of barriers, which is why some people consider GMOs to be unnatural and potentially unsafe.

The publication of a 2013 study on GMOs, which involved the evaluation of 1,783 research papers, reviews, relevant opinions, and reports published between 2002 and 2012 found no “significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops.” Further, organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the European Commission have publicly proclaimed GMO foods safe to eat. Yet public skepticism remains, and will likely continue, thanks to organizations like the Non-GMO Project, and movies like Jurassic Park that portray worst-case (fantasy) scenarios of what happens when scientists mess with that which they don’t fully understand. Here’s a fun fact as to why some companies can get behind producing non-GMO products. According to the Non-GMO Project website, retail partners report that Non-GMO Project Verified products are the fastest dollar growth trend in their stores, with total annual sales exceeding $19.2 billion! But here’s the thing. Consumers will truly have to work to avoid foods containing GMOs, because according to the USDA, there are already a number of GMO crops that have been genetically modified:

  • 94 percent of soybeans
  • 92 percent of corn
  • 94 percent of cotton
  • 95 percent of sugar beets, one of our main sources of sugar
  • 90 percent of canola oil, commonly used in prepared foods and to deep-fry things like French fries
  • 77 percent of Hawaiian papayas

Soybeans are used in a variety of foods for humans, and feed for animals. But soybeans have a wide range of uses, such as a component of biodiesel fuel for vehicles, included in biocomposite building materials, furniture, flooring, countertops, adhesives, carpets, crayons, lubricants, soy-based foams in cooler, refrigerators, automotive interior, footwear … you get the idea. In other words, GMOs are all around us, including the air we breathe.

GMO Question Asked And Answered

Knowing all of the above, I decided to pose the question to a member of Life Science Leader’s EAB. The first person I reached out to is a trained scientist with broad expertise. They responded, “Hmmm…I think this is too broad a question for a 160-word answer. It’s probably both.” They thought I might want to run it by someone else. I decided to reach out the Chandra Ramanathan, Ph.D., who heads up Bayer’s East Coast Innovation Center. I didn’t necessarily expect Ramanathan to have an answer, but thought, being he is at Bayer, and as Bayer has a large crop science organization, perhaps he can get an expert to weigh in with some thoughts. So I rephrased the question a bit, “What are the pros and cons of GMOs?” as I felt blessing or a curse left very little middle ground. And with the help of Adrian Percy, Ph.D., head of R&D for Bayer Crop Science, here is the response Ramanathan submitted.

There are mainly advantages of GM technology for consumers, farmers and the environment.  

  1. GM crops realize a significant increase in crop yield due to resilience to pests, herbicides or diseases. Between 1996 and 2015, the use of plant biotechnology increased yields on farms around the world by 574 million tons and generated an additional $168 billion.
  2. GM seeds ensure better growth of agricultural crops even under unfavorable conditions such as drought, flooding and high salinity.
  3. GM technology allows for no-till production (no plowing of the soil), which prevents erosion, increases CO2 storage in the soil and saves fuel. Around 27 million tons of CO2 – roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of 12 million cars – was saved in 2015 as a result of plowless cultivation and GM crops.
  4. Despite opposition to GM technology in several parts of the world, approximately 2,000 studies attest to the safety of GM foods. Since introduction in 1996, no study has remotely demonstrated a health risk from GM foods.

To read the entire article, please visit the Jackson Sun website.


By • August 27, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article by reporter Caitlin Slater on the KYMA website laying out the basics behind GMOs .

In today's Home Grown we are talking about GMOs.

Take a look in your refrigerator or pantry and you most likely find something with a NON GMO label on it.

13 On Your Side reporter, Caitlin Slater received an award at the annual Yuma County Farm Bureau meeting. The keynote speaker at the event was genomics and biotechnology researcher at UC Davis, Dr. Allison Van Eenennaam. She presented on how GMOs are actually better for us and our environment. 

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. It is referring to a breeding method called genetic engineering.

For example, breeders will take a piece of DNA from a virus that infects a certain crop and inject it into that crop. It's like a vaccination, so now the crop builds immunity to that virus. 

This allows farmers to not have to spray their crops with as much pesticides. 

When asked if Dr. Van Eenennaam thinks GMOs are safe for consumers she said, "I would absolutely say it because I am a scientist and that’s what the data says, but more than that, I am a mother and I care about the safety of my children and I’ve looked at the data." "I know insect protected crops get sprayed with less insecticides so in fact they are more safe," she added.

Genetically modified crops are grown right here in Yuma. They help make it so that crops are disease resistant, drought tolerant, protected from insect damage and all of these are problems that farmers face everyday.

To read the entire article, please visit the KYMA website.

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