Monday, January 12, 2015

What are GMO's?

As a whole, our society is always looking to jump on the next trending idea without fully understanding why they are doing so. One of the more recent trending ideas is the aversion to GMO's or Genetically Modified Organisms. Avoiding GMO's is a personal choice that should be made based on actual facts and understanding of what these things are rather than simply jumping on board with another trend. Hopefully after reading this, you will be able to answer the questions posed to the individuals in the video below!

Genetically Modified Organisms
A GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) is an organism or microorganism whose genome has been altered by genetic engineering. This puts genes into organisms that would not otherwise be found within it.

Thousands of plants have been genetically modified to overcome issues that humans deem a "nuisance". These include:

  • Injecting strawberries and tomatoes with fish genes in order to protect them from freezing.
  • Salmon and chicken that are engineered with extra growth hormones to allow them to grow larger.
File:Genetically modified corn.jpg
Courtesy of Keith Weller, U.S. Department of Agriculture
The Center for Food Safety reports the following percentage of Genetically Modified Organisms.
85% of U.S. corn
91% of Soybeans
88% of Cotton
And an estimated 75% of processed foods in a supermarket contain GMO's.

This introduction of a different strand of DNA is done by various methods but one of the most common methods utilizes DNA from viruses such as E Coli in order to convince the host to accept the new parasitic DNA.
File:Sacramento 2003 GMO USDA protest'Resist' flag.jpg
"Resist Sacramento 2003" Courtesy of Daniel Mayer

Originally the companies behind this gene splicing were under the impression that only one new trait would be introduced. However, we now know that many different traits can be altered in the host plant by changing just one gene. Hypothetically creating plants that can continue to have new DNA sequences and cause harm to both the plant strain and the people consuming them!