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].

 

Posted on July 21, 2017
GMOs aren't really added directly to the meat, beef.  However, beef cattle may consume feed that comes from a genetically modified plant. All beef cattle begin their lives on a farm or ranch, grazing pasture or grass - none of which is considered a GMO. For many cows this will be their sole source of feed for their lifetime. Some cattle receive rations of grain, which may contain corn or soybeans, both of which have genetically modified hybrids and varieties. ... Read More
Posted on March 28, 2017
Thanks for the question, which I will address in two ways here.   1. What are three ways that organisms are modified by scientists? Here I will focus only on plants.   a. Agrobacterium: Agrobacterium tumefaciens (Agro) is a naturally occurring soil organism that causes a disease in plants called crown gall disease. In the late 1970s, Mary-Dell Chilton discovered that Agro actually transfers genes (DNA) from the Agro to the plant cell, where it becomes integrated into the plant... Read More
Posted on March 2, 2017
First of all, to clarify – hybridization is part of conventional breeding and conventional breeding uses hybridization to create new combinations of genes from parent varieties. For example, a disease-resistant wheat variety may be hybridized to a variety that makes flour better suited for making whole wheat bread. This is a common goal of most conventional breeding programs. It typically involves taking pollen from one parent and using it to fertilize another parent. The... Read More

By • July 26, 2017

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

This month, GMO Answers wants to give you a glimpse into the daily lives of some of our volunteer experts who provide answers to your questions about GMOs, agriculture and biotechnology. We heard from a farmer who balances farm and family life in the last installment. So, in our second installment of our “Day in the Life” series, we asked university dietitian and GMO Answers volunteer expert Connie Diekman what a typical day in her life is like. 

 

connie diekman, nutritionist, gmo nutrition, gmo food, GMO, nutrition, science, education, biotechnology
Connie Diekman’s love for science and food began in high school, but didn’t end there. Now she provides nutrition counseling and health education to college students and beyond. (Image Credit: Connie Diekman)

 

1. Tell us about yourself – how did you decide to become a nutritionist?

It seems that I have been a dietitian forever so remembering how I got here is “tricky”. I always loved science and enjoyed food so in high school I found science classes offered me the opportunity to think, to feel challenged and to wonder. As I understood biology I realized that the food I loved was about chemicals and biological digestion so wow how fun would it be to learn more about the science of food. That was the start and – the rest, well here I am, lots of years later loving the science of food and the enjoyment of sharing good food.

2. How do you spend a typical day?

One thing about a job as a university dietitian is that there is no such thing as a typical day. On campus I spend time in student health, helping our students deal with high cholesterol, helping them with weight loss, working through challenges with eating disorders and many other clinical issues. I also work with our student athletes to help them make the most of their performance on the field, court or in the pool and of course, in the classroom. I work with our athletic trainers to develop plans for meals on the road, sessions with athletic teams and dealing with any athletes who are injured and need to develop an eating plan for recovery. I also work with our dining services, where I provide the nutrition guidelines for dining, work with the chefs as they develop menu items so that we can provide a good variety of options from the “decadent” to the “better for you” that still taste amazing. I also provide nutrition education in our dining locations – Nutrition Tips on table tops, nutrition messages on digital screens, counsel for students with food allergies and many other nutrition education related activities. And finally, I am a resource for all campus groups – sororities, fraternities, the resident advisors, HR, individual schools on campus – so anywhere that nutrition is wanted.

 

connie diekman, nutritionist, gmo nutrition, gmo food, GMO, nutrition, science, education, biotechnology

 

3. What would you tell clients with questions about the health or safety of GMOs? How can they tell if their food contains GMOs?

I consistently tell people that GMOs are safe, the science from more than 20 years has shown that, and they do provide a good option for farmers who need to have a variety of tools on hand to help them grow the best crops and nourish their animals in the best way. GMOs will provide one more way for farmers to raise enough food to feed our growing population, they are safe, beneficial and need to be available. Learn the science and make your own personal choice based on the science, not the myths shared by others or the internet. There are 10 crops that are genetically modified (GM) – cotton, alfalfa, corn, sugar beets, squash, soybeans, canola, papaya, potato and apple, but since the impact of GM does not change the nutrition of the crop – and of course not all of the 10 crops are food products – currently these foods do not need labeling.

 

connie diekman, nutritionist, gmo nutrition, gmo food, GMO, nutrition, science, education, biotechnology

 

4. What’s something you wish everyone knew about your job?

It is exciting, challenging, full of opportunity and hopefully a position that can help young adults – and our staff – learn the science of food so that they don’t fall victim to internet myths and that they can enjoy the foods they choose to eat.

5. With so much information available about health and nutrition, what are some tried-and-true principles everyone should follow when making food choices?

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines provide an excellent framework for making healthful food choices. They reflect the current science and they provide flexibility for a variety of eating patterns. What has been found to be the best diet advice is summed up in three words that many people don’t like – Balance, Variety and Moderation – but these words do convey how to approach healthier eating. Choose a good balance of plant foods and leaner animal foods. Enjoy a variety of foods within each of those groups – so rice, pasta and whole grain cereal, not just bread. And finally, portions do matter.

6. What’s your favorite guilty pleasure (but still healthy) snack?

All foods can fit into a healthful eating plan - it is about the quantity, frequency and what else you eat. With that said, who can’t resist a good piece of dark chocolate?

Posted on March 28, 2017
Thanks for the question, which I will address in two ways here.   1. What are three ways that organisms are modified by scientists? Here I will focus only on plants.   a. Agrobacterium: Agrobacterium tumefaciens (Agro) is a naturally occurring soil organism that causes a disease in plants called crown gall disease. In the late 1970s, Mary-Dell Chilton discovered that Agro actually transfers genes (DNA) from the Agro to the plant cell, where it becomes integrated into the plant... Read More
Posted on March 2, 2017
First of all, to clarify – hybridization is part of conventional breeding and conventional breeding uses hybridization to create new combinations of genes from parent varieties. For example, a disease-resistant wheat variety may be hybridized to a variety that makes flour better suited for making whole wheat bread. This is a common goal of most conventional breeding programs. It typically involves taking pollen from one parent and using it to fertilize another parent. The... Read More
Posted on December 1, 2016
Viroids are very small pieces of circular RNA that have the potential of causing plant diseases. These entities are infectious agents that are different from viruses because they have no protein coat encircling their genetic material. Thus far, viroids are only known to be effective infectious agents in plants. Viroids have not been associated with any animal disease, and they have not been found in animal cells and tissues.    Biotechnological tools are being used in... Read More

By • June 30, 2017

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

Bill Nye, GMO, science, millennial
As a farmer’s daughter, a marketer and millennial, Joanna knows all about her generation’s attitude toward GMOs and agriculture. (Image Credit: Joanna Wavrunek)

 

Science was not my favorite subject in high school. Luckily, Bill Nye the Science Guy was there for me growing up. The 1990s TV celebrity, with his spunky personality and real-life applications, made learning about science enjoyable.

Today, we can continue to learn from Mr. Nye through his Netflix show, “Bill Nye Saves the World.” He brings in experts who are knowledgeable about science that touches our lives. I was particularly intrigued by his episode featuring GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. This YouTube video for the episode made my jaw drop. My favorite line from Nye was, “I actually don’t know a whole lot about it, so I can’t tell you exactly why it scares me, it just does!”

I found this alarming and thought I better chime in. I figured I would put Nye’s main ideas in the episode into terms that a millennial might better understand.

Bill Nye: Get the facts.

Millennial: Talk to the person who deals with it daily.

As millennials, we are inclined to rush to the internet for answers when we have questions about something. The internet is full of “experts,” and, unfortunately, many times the first one we find is the one we believe. I have learned that it’s better to seek out information from a variety of perspectives on a topic. From there, I find a person who is immersed in that topic daily. It only makes sense. For example, I don’t go to my hairstylist for advice about my 401k even though the hairstylist might have opinions about investing. My financial advisor is best suited for that. In similar fashion, Nye went straight to qualified experts when examining GMOs by inviting the CEO of Monsanto, a crop farmer and a professor onto his show.

Bill Nye: Tool in the toolbox.

Millennial: It is an option for farmers to use.

As I get older, I have more and more options in my daily life. I choose that options that work best for me. Take something as simple as shampoo. I get to choose from a variety of brands, scents and benefits. In the end, I pick the shampoo that works best for my hair and fits my financial budget. It’s like the decision-making farmers use when determining which seed to plant in their fields. They want a seed that is going to best fit their soil, budget and production goals.

 

gmo myth, gmo environment, gmo fact, gmo science, gmo farmer, gmo agriculture

 

Bill Nye: OMG, it’s a GMO.

Millennial: There are a lot of opinions about GMOs, don’t believe just one.

Everyone has an opinion. All those viewpoints, which bombard us online, can make it confusing.

The most effective diet, how to raise children, what education is best. In just a couple minutes you can find all sorts of opinions.

During my 24 years, I have learned it is important to listen to everyone’s viewpoints before forming your own opinion. There is no shortage of viewpoints. People tell us things like how to diet most effectively, how to raise children and what education is best. And you can find those opinions in just a couple minutes online.

Nye devoted an entire show to GMOs. Amid today’s short attention spans, 30 minutes is a long time. Even still, for GMOs, which have been the subject of years of research and millions of dollars of investment, there is more for people to learn.

I continue to learn from Nye’s approach — finding credible sources and then discussing their various viewpoints. His willingness to do so speaks to his own credibility and character.

My favorite quote from him is, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” We are not experts in everything. There are lessons we can continue to learn from Bill Nye the Science Guy. 

Posted on March 28, 2017
Thanks for the question, which I will address in two ways here.   1. What are three ways that organisms are modified by scientists? Here I will focus only on plants.   a. Agrobacterium: Agrobacterium tumefaciens (Agro) is a naturally occurring soil organism that causes a disease in plants called crown gall disease. In the late 1970s, Mary-Dell Chilton discovered that Agro actually transfers genes (DNA) from the Agro to the plant cell, where it becomes integrated into the plant... Read More
Posted on March 2, 2017
First of all, to clarify – hybridization is part of conventional breeding and conventional breeding uses hybridization to create new combinations of genes from parent varieties. For example, a disease-resistant wheat variety may be hybridized to a variety that makes flour better suited for making whole wheat bread. This is a common goal of most conventional breeding programs. It typically involves taking pollen from one parent and using it to fertilize another parent. The... Read More
Posted on December 1, 2016
Viroids are very small pieces of circular RNA that have the potential of causing plant diseases. These entities are infectious agents that are different from viruses because they have no protein coat encircling their genetic material. Thus far, viroids are only known to be effective infectious agents in plants. Viroids have not been associated with any animal disease, and they have not been found in animal cells and tissues.    Biotechnological tools are being used in... Read More

By • June 30, 2017

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

 

Gmos, biotechnology, internet, science, gmo answers

 

Michael Stebbins is the Director of External Engagement for the Council for Biotechnology Information. Raised on an apple and grape farm just outside Buffalo, NY, he has been in Washington, D.C. for more than 20 years working on a variety of issues in the medical, science, and technology fields.

The Internet is full of information about almost any topic imaginable, but sometimes it can feel like the answer to your question isn’t always at your fingertips. It can be difficult to find sources you can trust with so many ongoing conversations taking place across society, media and the Internet. These notions laid the foundation of GMO Answers when we launched GMOAnswers.com in 2013 to answer your questions and encourage a two-way dialogue about anything related to GMOs and biotechnology.  

 

Gmos, biotechnology, internet, science, gmo answers

 

Since then, we’ve welcomed over 1,300 questions from people across all backgrounds – including curious students, parents, teachers and skeptics, among others – and provided each one with a unique response from one of our volunteer experts. This level of engagement is far beyond what we ever expected. That’s why today we’re excited to announce the relaunch of GMOAnswers.com.

The refreshed GMOAnswers.com is the latest evolution in our continued commitment to creating a central, user-friendly resource for GMO and biotechnology information. It offers more multimedia content, enhanced search functionality and refreshed educational resources. Now, visitors can enjoy an optimized digital experience that allows them to more easily find answers to the most-asked questions and the most updated resources.

Visitors can continue to submit questions for our GMO Answers volunteer experts to answer. These experts include farmers, academics, nutritionists and scientists who donate their time to help communicate the facts about GMO crops and dispel myths and misinformation surrounding GMOs. The refreshed site will allow us to find new and engaging ways to work with these experts to best answer users’ questions.

 

Gmos, biotechnology, internet, science, gmo answers

 

If you’re curious about GMOs and biotechnology, visit GMOAnswers.com to find the answers you’re looking for, and see what the refreshed website experience is all about. 

Posted on March 28, 2017
Thanks for the question, which I will address in two ways here.   1. What are three ways that organisms are modified by scientists? Here I will focus only on plants.   a. Agrobacterium: Agrobacterium tumefaciens (Agro) is a naturally occurring soil organism that causes a disease in plants called crown gall disease. In the late 1970s, Mary-Dell Chilton discovered that Agro actually transfers genes (DNA) from the Agro to the plant cell, where it becomes integrated into the plant... Read More
Posted on March 2, 2017
First of all, to clarify – hybridization is part of conventional breeding and conventional breeding uses hybridization to create new combinations of genes from parent varieties. For example, a disease-resistant wheat variety may be hybridized to a variety that makes flour better suited for making whole wheat bread. This is a common goal of most conventional breeding programs. It typically involves taking pollen from one parent and using it to fertilize another parent. The... Read More
Posted on December 1, 2016
Viroids are very small pieces of circular RNA that have the potential of causing plant diseases. These entities are infectious agents that are different from viruses because they have no protein coat encircling their genetic material. Thus far, viroids are only known to be effective infectious agents in plants. Viroids have not been associated with any animal disease, and they have not been found in animal cells and tissues.    Biotechnological tools are being used in... Read More

By • June 27, 2017

The following is an article from The New York Times about “Food Evolution,” a documentary that debunks some of the most common myths surrounding GMOs with facts about their health, safety and contribution to sustainability.

The scientific method is under siege, and not just from naysayers who dismiss climate change or fear vaccines. G.M.O.s — genetically modified organisms — and the crops they enable have become another field of battle. Directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy, “Food Evolution” hopes to demystify G.M.O.s and points to successes like Hawaiian papayas and Ugandan bananas, which were saved from devastating viruses. And while it gives opponents their say, the film rebuts their arguments, including reports that suggest G.M.O.s lead to a rise in farmers’ suicide rates and an increase in pesticide use. (The response to the first: correlation is not causation; to the second, yes, but those pesticides are far less toxic.)

The film also speaks with food journalists (including Michael Pollan, a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine) as well as farmers who have benefited from the technology. And if trust is an issue, Neil deGrasse Tyson, perhaps the most credible public scientist on the planet, is its narrator.

The documentary acknowledges the gorilla in the garden: Monsanto, a leading exponent of modification, is “one of the most-hated companies in the world.” There are many reasons Monsanto raises hackles, Dr. Tyson acknowledges, but “to be concerned about the safety of their G.M.O.s is to be misinformed.”

The food industry recruits scientists to speak on its behalf, but in press notes and email correspondence, the film’s producers say no funding came from any Big Ag company or lobbying group. “Food Evolution” was commissioned by the nonprofit Institute of Food Technologists, and the filmmakers retained creative control.

With a soft tone, respectful to opponents but insistent on the data, “Food Evolution” posits an inconvenient truth for organic boosters to swallow: In a world desperate for safe, sustainable food, G.M.O.s may well be a force for good.

To view the original article, please visit nytimes.com.

Posted on March 28, 2017
Thanks for the question, which I will address in two ways here.   1. What are three ways that organisms are modified by scientists? Here I will focus only on plants.   a. Agrobacterium: Agrobacterium tumefaciens (Agro) is a naturally occurring soil organism that causes a disease in plants called crown gall disease. In the late 1970s, Mary-Dell Chilton discovered that Agro actually transfers genes (DNA) from the Agro to the plant cell, where it becomes integrated into the plant... Read More
Posted on March 2, 2017
First of all, to clarify – hybridization is part of conventional breeding and conventional breeding uses hybridization to create new combinations of genes from parent varieties. For example, a disease-resistant wheat variety may be hybridized to a variety that makes flour better suited for making whole wheat bread. This is a common goal of most conventional breeding programs. It typically involves taking pollen from one parent and using it to fertilize another parent. The... Read More
Posted on December 1, 2016
Viroids are very small pieces of circular RNA that have the potential of causing plant diseases. These entities are infectious agents that are different from viruses because they have no protein coat encircling their genetic material. Thus far, viroids are only known to be effective infectious agents in plants. Viroids have not been associated with any animal disease, and they have not been found in animal cells and tissues.    Biotechnological tools are being used in... Read More

QIs there a GMO pineapple?

Is there a GMO pineapple?

Thank you for your question. One of our experts will get back to you soon.

Posted on March 28, 2017
Thanks for the question, which I will address in two ways here.   1. What are three ways that organisms are modified by scientists? Here I will focus only on plants.   a. Agrobacterium: Agrobacterium tumefaciens (Agro) is a naturally occurring soil organism that causes a disease in plants called crown gall disease. In the late 1970s, Mary-Dell Chilton discovered that Agro actually transfers genes (DNA) from the Agro to the plant cell, where it becomes integrated into the plant... Read More
Posted on March 2, 2017
First of all, to clarify – hybridization is part of conventional breeding and conventional breeding uses hybridization to create new combinations of genes from parent varieties. For example, a disease-resistant wheat variety may be hybridized to a variety that makes flour better suited for making whole wheat bread. This is a common goal of most conventional breeding programs. It typically involves taking pollen from one parent and using it to fertilize another parent. The... Read More
Posted on December 1, 2016
Viroids are very small pieces of circular RNA that have the potential of causing plant diseases. These entities are infectious agents that are different from viruses because they have no protein coat encircling their genetic material. Thus far, viroids are only known to be effective infectious agents in plants. Viroids have not been associated with any animal disease, and they have not been found in animal cells and tissues.    Biotechnological tools are being used in... Read More
GMOAnswers Admin's picture

Video: Are GMOs Safe To Eat?

In the spring of 2016, The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) researched GMO safety and concluded that GMOs are safe for humans and animals to consume. We asked GMO Answers volunteer expert and Registered Dietician Connie Diekman for her thoughts on the safety of GMOs.
Community Manager's picture

Video: How Many GMOs Are In The Food Supply?

While nearly all foods today have been genetically modified in some way over thousands of years through selective breeding, GMO Answers volunteer expert and Registered Dietician Connie Diekman explains that there are only 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.

Community Manager's picture

Video: What Are The Common Misconceptions Surrounding GMOs And Nutrition?

Wondering if foods made from GM crops are as healthy as their non-GM counterparts? GMO Answers volunteer expert and Registered Dietician Connie Diekman explains that there is no nutritional difference between GMOs and their non-GMO counterpart.

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