GMO basics

GMOs are living plants or microorganisms (ie, bacteria) that had their genetic code changed in some way

  1. a gene is inserted into the DNA of the nucleus of a single cell
  2. the cell is treated with plant hormones to stimulate growth and development
  3. the cell starts to divide
  4. the resulting cells become an entire plant

Why we use GMOs:

  • agriculture is vulnerable to 3 things: insects, weeds, and weather; most GMOs address the first two
    • insects: GMOs repel only the particular type of insect that feed on them
      • reduced the need for pesticides
    • weeds: GMOs developed to be resistant to herbicides
  • secondary benefits:
    • lower costs
    • less soil erosion (tillage isn’t as necessary for weed control)
    • less pesticides
  • GMOs also used to produce medicines and vaccines
    • before GMOs, medicine was extracted from blood donors, animal parts, or cadavers; had the risk of transmitted diseases, inconsistent quality, and unreliable supply
    • GMO medicines are more consistent and aren’t likely to be contaminated

GMOs and human health

  • A lot of attention on whether GMOs are safe to eat; currently there is no data that indicates any harm
    • over the two decades that GMOs have been on the market, there have been no health issues
  • GMOs have undergone more detailed evaluation than any other group of plants we consume
  • GMOs differ from a conventional plant by the addition of just one or two genes that produce one or two new proteins
    • the origins and functions of these proteins are well understood

GMOs and insects

  • pesticides are chemicals that will prevent pests from damaging plants, either by killing the insect or forming a toxic barrier around the plant
  • pesticides can kill beneficial organisms; they’re costly to farmers; they can be dangerous to animals and workers
    • GMOs solve this problem by modifying the plant’s protein manufacturing system to create one that is toxic to specific insects (their stomachs rupture)
  • GM crops don’t harm honeybees or butterflies

One thought on “GMO basics

  1. I have done a ton of exploration into GMO’s and admire your research into this topic. I’d be happy to meet and talk more about this – particularly the comment about GMO crops not harming honeybees = I’m not sure this is totally correct and it definitely speaks to what the definition of a GMO crop is = if you are talking Round Up (Glyphosate) then it has definitely impacted the bee population in very troubling ways. But GMO’s don’t always contain Round Up…

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