A GMO, or genetically modified organisim, is a plant, animal, or other living organisms whose genetic makeup has been modified in a lab using genetic engineering. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
Most GMOs have been engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. New technologies are now being used to artificially develop other traits in plants, such as a resistance to browning in apples. Only four crops account for 99% of worldwide GM crop area: soybean, maize, canola and cotton.
- Insect resistance - this can reduce the amount of pesticide chemicals used
- More nutritious foods - the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nationals reports that some GMO foods have been engineered to be more nutritious in terms of mineral or vitamin content.
- Allergic reactions - GMOs often mix or add proteins that weren't indigenous to the original plant or animal, causing new allergic reactions in the human body.
- Decreased antibiotic efficacy - antiobiotic features built into GMO foods can persist in your body and can make actual antiobiotic medications less effective.
- Gene transfer - modified genes could escape into the wild. Herbicide-resistant genes from commercial crops may cross into the wild weed population, creating "superweeds" that are impossible to kill with herbicides. New super-organisms could also out-compete natural animal and plant populations, driving certain species into extinction.
- Reduced seed variety & dependency on multinational seed and herbicide companies - less access for farmers and rising seed costs. Biotech companies can patent the use and distribution of their genetically engineered seeds, and can sue farmers whose fields have been contaminated with GMOs, even when it's the result of pollen drift from neighboring fields.
- Increased herbicide use - Since GMOs were first introduced, the use of toxic herbicides (such as Roundup) has increased fifteenfold.
The United States doesn't require GMOs to be labeled, though currently 64 countries around the world, including all of the European Union, do require it. If you are concerned about GMOs, you can learn more about the Non-GMO Project
and look for their label on products that have been third-party certified.
You can also look for USDA Certified Organic products - organic foods, by law, are non-GMO.
Longterm impacts of GMOs are unknown. Although GMO foods may have some benefits to your health and the efficiency of the farming industry, it also presents many drawbacks and risks.