What Are GMOs
Genetically modified organisms are organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Although labeling of genetically modified organism (GMO) products in the marketplace is required in 64 countries, it is not required in the United States and no distinction between marketed GMO and non-GMO foods is recognized by the US FDA.
A variety of classification schemes have been proposed that order genetically modified organisms based on the nature of introduced genotypical changes rather than the process of genetic engineering. GMO crops can, however, result in genetic contamination of native plant species through hybridization. Genetically modified crops are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. In most cases the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species. Genetically modified foods are foods produced from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering.
The first commercially available genetically modified food was a tomato engineered to have a longer shelf life. To date most genetic modification of foods have primarily focused on cash crops in high demand by farmers such as soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil.
Potential Risks of GMOs
Human Health Risks: More and more studies point to the idea that there’s grave cause for concern about the health effects of consuming GMOs and the chemicals they are sprayed with, including food allergies, irritable bowels, organ damage and cancer.
Environmental Risks: Seventy-two percent of US GMO crops are engineered to tolerate a certain type of herbicide. But the weeds that these herbicides are used to kill are coming back bigger and stronger, creating herbicide-resistant “superweeds” that require greater quantities of more toxic pesticides to eradicate.
The Risk to Organic Farmers: Even when a farmer isn't growing GM crops, contamination can easily occur—through seed mixing or pollen drift from neighboring GM fields. While this contamination is troubling for those of us who wish to avoid GMOs, it can be an economic disaster for organic and family farmers.