Farmers have many choices when choosing which seeds to plant. For the past 30 years, GMO seeds have been part of that decision. As a CommonGround volunteer, I often find myself answering questions about GMOs. Here are a few of my answers.
A: A GMO is a genetically modified organism used in a breeding process known as genetic engineering. This process takes a gene found in nature and transfers it from a plant or an organism to another plant to improve that plant. This technology has allowed us to develop insect resistance, drought and herbicide tolerance, and disease resistance in plants, as well as enhancing nutritional content of plants.
GMOs can also reduce food waste due to slowing down the natural decay process in fruits and vegetables. There are currently ten plants that benefit from this breeding process, including corn (field and sweet), soybeans, canola, alfalfa, papaya, squash, cotton, sugar beets, potatoes and apples.
Corn, for example, has been genetically engineered to add a protein to the green plant tissue, so when the European Corn Borer (a common pest in corn) takes a bite of the tissue, it dies. Therefore, farmers do not have to utilize an insecticide for that pest. Farmers typically do not like to use an insecticide on their fields because it not only kills the harmful pest but also may kill beneficial insects. By planting GMO corn, we are targeting specific problems while protecting the environment.
Q: Why do farmers grow GMO crops?
A: Farmers use this technology to protect the environment. GMOs help us produce more yield while using less insecticides and herbicides. Each GMO solves a problem for the farmer, like protecting crops from a destructive insect, or helping the plant mature with less water. Two of the newest GMOs were designed to help with food waste. The Arctic® Apple and the Innate® Potato were developed to reduce browning when cut, for example.
To learn more about the safety of GMOs visit GMOAnswers.com.