Have you ever wondered what the grocery store would look like without genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? Recently, I was asked this question and it got me thinking.
GMOs are organisms in which the genetic material (i.e., DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. Genetic modification allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another. In the case of food, crop seed can be genetically modified, which results in genetically modified food.
Even with my ag background, my first thought was, “The shelves would be bare!” It’s amazing how many food products, pharmaceuticals and household goods are made with corn or soybeans — two of the primary GMO crops grown in North America today. The Iowa State University Center for Crops Utilization Research has great charts about all the products derived from corn and soybeans — it’s extensive!
As you may know, farmers choose to grow GMO crops as one means to reduce the need for pesticides and insecticides while increasing the plant’s overall hardiness. GMOs also help ensure our agricultural production is at the volume required to sustain our food supply. If we eliminated GMOs, farmers would still need to grow these crops to feed both humans and livestock; however, they would use conventional soybean varieties and corn hybrids, which would require more intervention to control weeds and other pests.
So, in theory, if we did remove GMO produce and foods that include GMO ingredients, the grocery store shelves would look somewhat the same but food would be much more expensive.
While GMOs have a mixed reputation, they do a lot of good. They provide more quality product that’s produced in a sustainable way. This results in more variety and lower prices to you as a consumer. I, for one, appreciate the variety when I am planning my family’s meals!