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Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

In the past few years, the acronym GMO has popped up in the news and on food labels. GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.” Many people hear a phrase like that and feel that GMOs are something to be avoided. However, these products are not anything to fear. They have not only been a part of our agricultural past, but they are also our future, and possibly our survival, when it comes to food.

Any type of living organism can be genetically modified and called a GMO, however the most common form is food. The most common of this type of foods are those produced through industrial agriculture. These genetically modified foods have tailored DNA in order to better fight pests, have higher yields, or produce more of a certain trait in a food. One example of this is corn. Naturally, corn will be one of three colors - purple, white, or yellow. Each color yields a slightly different flavor. The white and yellow corn is much sweeter than the purple corn. The corn we usually see in supermarkets today is not purple because corn has been intentionally altered genetically to be white and yellow. Another example can be found in fruits and vegetables that are genetically modified in order to prevent browning. Apples, potatoes, and pears are examples of foods that could be modified to prevent browning. This type of genetic modification seems that it could have very little negative impact on human health. It is strikingly similar to non-lab based genetic modification that has been used in agriculture for centuries. Many may fear these so-called “new” modified foods simply because the general population does not fully understand the science behind it. While modern genetic modification of food is much more complex than ever before, this does not mean it is a new and dangerous practice.

Humans have been using selective breeding of plants and animals to ensure better crop yields, and preferred flavor profiles since agriculture began. Not only is it as safe as selective breeding for white corn over purple corn, it can also help solve the current world hunger crisis. Recent scientific breakthroughs have allowed humans to develop GMO crops that have much higher yields and natural resistance to pests than ever thought possible. Therefore, modifying the genetic material of seeds can have a direct positive impact on food shortages all over the world.