You can’t do anything today without seeing labels around GMO, non-GMO, etc. But what exactly does it mean when a plant is genetically modified (GM)? Knowing what GMOs are, and why they are used, is key to making the best decisions when feeding your family.
When thinking about GMOs, it pays to remember that scientists are focused on finding ways to help farmers manage the many challenges of producing food — from pests and disease to drought and erosion. Scientists rely on many old and new techniques to develop the best seeds for farmers. The GMO process is just one of many techniques that can be used, along with others, to create specific seed products for farmers.
According to the World Health Organization, genetically modified organisms (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.
What the heck does that mean? In short, GM is a process in which scientists transfer beneficial traits from one plant to another to achieve the desired improvement. When scientists find a trait that could be beneficial, they make a copy of the desired gene and put it in the plant’s DNA.
1. Environmental stewardship:
2. Plant health:
Environmental stewardship and plant health are key in farmers producing more food with fewer resources. For example, below is a diagram that represents corn yield vs. population in the Unites States in 1975 vs. 2018.
|U.S. Population||U.S. Average Corn Yield|
75 bushels per acre
175 bushels per acre
Though the statistics above are from the United States alone, our U.S. farmers help feed the world. According to the U.S. Farm Bureau Federation, one U.S. farm feeds 166 people annually in the United States and abroad. The global population is expected to increase by 2.2 billion by 2050, which means the world’s farmers will have to grow about 70% more food than what is now produced.
And here’s the thing: The population is growing, but resources are not. The amount of land and water are not increasing, yet farmers are tasked with producing enough food and fiber to meet the needs of a growing world, with the same, or fewer, amount of resources.
GM food is a hot topic, and there’s more information and questions than I can cover here. As with all topics, I recommend doing your research and not just using friends’ recommendations to make the best decision for your family.
Below are some resources that I have found helpful when trying to learn more about GM food and making the best decision when purchasing food for my family.