Introduction to GMOs
- What are GMO’s?
- Are they dangerous for you and your family?
- Are they used mainly in the United States or do other countries use them too?
- Are GMO’s harmful for people or animals?
- Are they safe for your children?
- Can food be GMO and Organic at the same time?
- Can animals be genetically modified, or only plants?
- Are GMO ingredients labeled in the US?
- Which crops and products are the most likely to contain GMO ingredients?
No doubt you have seen these or other questions about GMO’s floating around the internet lately. Everyone has questions, and all the answers provided seem to be in conflict or direct contradiction with each other.
If you want the real skinny on GMO’s, the good, the bad, and the ugly, keep reading.
GMO is an acronym for Genetically Modified Organisms.
These are biological agents that have undergone genetic modification or genetic engineering. GMO’s have been showing up in the news cycle a lot lately.
But what exactly are they, and why should you care?
We’ve scoured the internet to bring you 90 things you didn’t know about these controversial organisms.
90 Facts & Statistics about GMOs
- GMO’s are not naturally occurring, they are created in labs.
- GMO’s are made by extracting genes from one species’ DNA and inserting them into another plant or animal that doesn’t naturally possess that genetic material.
- The genes inserted don’t have to come from animals. They can come from bacteria, plants, people, insects, or even viruses.
- GMO’s are considered transgenic organisms.
- Most processed food in America contains GMO’s of some type.
- GMO’s have been present in American foods since the mid 1990’s.
- The FDA does not require companies to list GMO’s on their labels.
- GMO’s are illegal in most of Europe.
- The most common modifications made to plants are giving the plant the ability to create it’s own pesticide and adding resistance to herbicides.
- 94% of all US Soy crops are genetically modified.
- 90% of all US Cotton crops are genetically modified.
- 90% of all US Canola crops are genetically modified.
- 95% of all US Sugar Beet crops are genetically modified.
- 88 of all US Corn crops are genetically modified.
- About 50 of all US Hawaiian Papaya crops are genetically modified.
- Over 24,000 acres of US Zucchini and Yellow Squash crops are genetically modified.
- The use of theses GMOs means the majority of soybean oil, soy lecithin, corn oil, canola oil, beet sugar, and corn syrup comes from genetically modified sources.
- GMO’s have been linked to allergic reactions in lab animals.
- GMO’s have been linked to toxic, sick, and sterile livestock.
- GMO’s have been linked to dead livestock and lab animals.
- GMO’s have been linked to major organ damage in lab animals.
- The effects of GMO’s on humans has never been lab tested.
- GMO crops that have been modified to produce their own pesticides are toxic to insects and animals that graze on them.
- With the exception of soy, pollen from GMO crops can infect nearby crops through cross pollination.
- 64 countries worldwide, including all of the EU, require GMO labeling.
- 93% of Americans believe that GMO’s should be labeled.
- GMO’s are commonly used in animal feed
- Most honey, eggs, milk and seafood contain trace amounts of GMOs.
- Companies that make GMO’s are able to sue farmers whose fields have been contaminated with GMO’s through cross pollination.
- More than 80% of all GMOs (worldwide) have been modified to have herbicide resistance.
- Toxic herbicides have been used fifteen times more often since the introduction of GMOs than they were before GMOs were commonly used.
- Herbicide Glyphosate, one of the most common herbicides used on US crops, was declared ‘probably carcinogenic’ (cancer-causing) to humans by the World Health Organization in 2015.
- GMO’s create resistant strains of weeds and insects, often called ‘superweeds’ and ‘superbugs’.
- Superweeds and Superbugs can only be killed by harsh, toxic chemicals like 2,4-D, the main ingredient in Agent Orange.
- GMO’s cannot be recalled once they have been released into the environment.
- Despite media claims, the scientific community has not reached a consensus on the safety of GMOs.
- Most of the research that declares GMOs are safe for human consumption has been done by the same biotech companies that create GMOs and stand to profit from their use.
- Genetic modification has never produced a crop that actually makes agriculture more sustainable, produces higher yields than non-GMO crops, makes farming more profitable (with the exception of industrial factory farms), or provides more nutrition than their non-GMO counterparts.
- GMOs negatively impact soil quality and can be damaging to ecosystems because they reduce biodiversity.
- Genetic modification can include deleting or multiplying genes within a living plant or animal.
- Crop plants have between 30,000 and 50,000 genes that code for proteins and determinant traits.
- DNA and RNA work together in an interconnected way that scientists do not fully understand, making it impossible to say with absolute certainty that editing,a dding or deleting a genetic trait will only impact the organism in a specific, intended fashion.
- Genetic engineering is not the same as natural breeding and it creates different risks than natural breeding.
- In 2003, 166 countries signed the Cartegena Protocol on biodiversity. This agreement aims to protect natural biodiversity from potentially harmful altering effects of GMOs.
- Cisgenesis, the process of transferring genes from related, similar or identical biological sources is a new type of genetic modification which continues to grow in popularity in the United States and abroad.
- Cisgenesis is risky because bacteria, viruses, or other gene modified elements can be transferred from one strain of plants to another. For example, blight could be introduced from sugar maples to red maples through cisgenesis.
- Genetic modification is performed using either a gene gun which shoots new DNA into the cell nucleus or by infection of cultured cells using soil bacterium A. tumefaciens.
- A. tumefaciens typically infects plants at a wound site, creating a type of ‘plant tumor’.
- Only a small percentage of plants that undergo the modification process produce viable genetically modified plant cells.
- Those viable cells are treated with plant hormones to produce viable crops.
- Genetic modification technology falls into two categories: contained use and uncontained use.
- Contained use means the GMO is created in a lab setting and is not introduced into a living environment where it could potentially contaminate non-modifed crops.
- Contained use of GMOs can help diagnose diseases and create new medicines.
- Contained use is the only type of genetic modification permitted for use in Europe.
- Natural reproduction is considered vertical gene transfer. Genetic modification is considered to be horizontal gene transfer.
- Horizontal gene transfer is common in lower organisms like bacteria but uncommon in higher functioning, more complex organisms.
- Catching a virus is a form of Horizontal Gene Transfer.
- Genetic modification is not the same as selective breeding.
- Biotechnology encompasses a host of processes and is not synonymous with genetic modification.
- Genetic modification disrupts the host plants natural regulatory system.
- Genetic modification can yield unexpected and unpredictable results.
- Genetic modification can lead to mutations in plants and animals.
- GMOs are largely unregulated.
- Most GMO’s are safety tested only by the companies that develop and sell them.
- GMOs are considered to be Generally Recognized as Safe(GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration, but they have never met the legal requirements for GRAS status.
- Regulatory lapses and flat out regulatory failures are common in genetically modified crops.
- In 1992, FDA Scientist Dr. Louis Pribyl criticized the FDA for having no scientific basis for their GMO policy, stating there was “no data to back up” their decision.
- The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not liable for any safety concerns or negative outcomes caused by GMOs.
- The FDA doesn’t have a mandatory food safety assessment process for genetically modified foods.
- The FDA has never specifically approved any genetically modified foods as safe for human consumption.
- The US Department of Agriculture has a goal of fostering growth of the biotechnology industry.
- The US Department of Agriculture owns 1.2% of all biotechnology patents within the public sector granted between the years 1982 and 2001.
- The US State department encourages the use of GMOs abroad.
- The US State department has been involved in steering or coercing African companies to accept the use of GMOs.
- The US Embassy in Spain suggested that the Spanish government work with the United States government to draw up a joint strategy with the aim of increasing use of GMOs in Europe.
- The US Embassy in Paris recommended a punitive course of action towards the EU in response to their resistance to the adaptation of GMO crops.
- 74% of all agricultural biotech patents are owned by privately held companies.
- Although GMOs are not regulated abroad due to their presumed status as substantively equivalent to their naturally occurring counterparts, the qualifications for substantial equivalency are poorly defined.
- Many scientists consider ‘Substantial Equivalence’ to be a psuedoscience.
- A cow with a BSE infection (Mad Cow Disease) is ‘substantially equivalent’ to a healthy cow.
- Genetically modified soy contains 12-14% less isoflavones than non-modified soy.
- Genetically modified soy contains 27% more trypsin-inhibitor than non-modified soy. Trypsin-inhibitor is a known allergen.
- Genetically modified Canola with added vitamin A has less Vitamin E than naturally occurring Canola Oil.
- Genetically modified rice is less nutritious than natural rice.
- Genetically modified corn contains altered proteins that are potentially toxic t people and animals.
- GMOs behave differently in different climates.
- GMOs would not be able to pass a fair, unbiased comparative safety assessment.
- Agricultural Biotech companies hire lobbyists to aggressively advocate the use and benefits of GMOs to US lawmakers.
- Eating genetically modified feed can alter the nutritional value of animals used for meat and milk.
- Most industry data on GMOs in the US are classified as confidential business information by American regulators and as such are not subject to public review or scrutiny.
Now you know much more about GMO’s than you did before reading this article. Hopefully all your questions have been answered and you have more than enough information to make an informed decision about the impact of GMOs o you and your family.
Whether they are good or bad is for you to decide, but at least you have done your due diligence by taking the time to learn more about GMOs.
Be sure to share this article with any friends or family members that want to know more about GMOs!