What is a GMO?
- Thursday, 20 September 2012
What do you get when you cross genes from bacteria with genes from an animal? Not sure? Neither is anyone else, including the scientists and researchers behind genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
What exactly is a GMO? A GMO is created by taking genes from organisms such as bacteria, viruses or animals and inserting them into another, often unrelated, species.
Genetically modified, or GM food refers to any food product that contains GMOs or is derived from GMOs.
Proponents of genetically modified foods emphasize the potential benefits - increasing agricultural production to potentially ending world hunger (ironically, some third world countries have already said, 'no thank you' to GM foods), a decreased use of pesticides by creating pest-resistant crops, and enhanced nutritional value by fortifying plants with additional nutrients.
Opponents, on the other hand, warn that these new organisms (nicknamed Frankenfoods by critics) may pose serious unknown and unpredictable health and environmental risks. Many people have already experienced allergic reactions to GM foods.
About 70 percent of the foods in our supermarkets contain genetically modified ingredients. The three main GM crops cultivated in the U.S. are corn, soybeans, and cotton. Most sugar is made from GM sugar beets. Take a moment to consider just how many foods and products contain these GM ingredients.
Foods labeled 'organic' are not allowed to contain GMOs.
Photo credit: Peter Blanchard