With so much buzz about GMOs, it is hard to know what’s true. GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are created through a process called biotechnology, which is simply a more precise method of breeding plants using naturally existing genes. Farmers have used biotechnology for over 20 years, and the FDA, USDA and EPA test each GMO seed for an average of 13 years before it is approved for farming. We love that everyone has a choice when it comes to GMOs. Just like farmers have a choice of what they grow, you have options for what you buy at the grocery store. Both GMO and non-GMO crops are equally nutritious and healthy food options.
GMO vs. non-GMO: How farmers decide what to plant
Farmers are fortunate to have the choice of what to plant. With demand for food from both GMO and non-GMO crops, farmers have the freedom to decide what to plant based on personal preference.
Nutritionally, GMO and non-GMO crops are the same. The difference lies in the genetic makeup of the seed. In farming, biotechnology adds naturally existing genes into a plant to achieve a favorable characteristic, like the ability to repel insects or the ability to grow crops using less water.
The majority of the crops in South Dakota are GMO crops, including 96 percent of soybeans and 97 percent of corn planted in the state.
Most South Dakota soybean farmers choose to plant GMO crops because it helps them use less water, fuel, fertilizer and other crop inputs, while growing more food. This saves energy and resources, which means that you can be confident that GMO crops are not only healthy, but are also contributing to a healthy environment.
The GMO Approval Process
GMO plants are regulated by three federal regulatory agencies: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Each agency regulates different types of GMO products.
Once a GMO crop or plant is introduced, it is regulated by USDA, which monitors its import, handling, interstate movement and release into the environment.
The EPA regulates all pesticides in order to protect the environment and public health.
The FDA regulates all food and animal feed, including those with GMO ingredients. All GMO food and feed products are rigorously tested to meet safety standards before entering the marketplace.
All of this research, monitoring and regulation mean that GMO crops are safe. These federal agencies would not allow a crop into the marketplace unless it was secure. With more than 20 years of regulation and monitoring, you can rest assured that GMO crops are a safe option for farmers to grow and for you to choose.
GMOs Grown Today
There are ten GMO crops grown commercially in the U.S. today. Two of those – apples and potatoes – are in development and will debut in the near future. To better understand the world of GMOs, here’s a quick recap of what each of the GMO crops grown in the U.S. are bred to do.
Alfalfa – Bred to tolerate herbicides, which means less chemicals need to be used on fields to control weeds.
Apples – GM apples have an enzyme turned off – the one that causes them to brown. So when these apples are cut, bruised or bitten, they won’t brown like non-GM apples.
Canola – Just like alfalfa, GM canola is herbicide tolerant, plus it is resistant to pests and fungus. All of these improvements mean fewer pesticides need to be used to keep the plant healthy.
Corn – Bred to protect the crop against harmful pests like corn rootworm and Asian corn borer.
Cotton – GM cotton also protects against a harmful pest: cotton bollworm, and is bred so farmers can use fewer pesticides.
Papaya – The Papaya Ringspot Virus once almost knocked out the papaya population. GM papayas are resistant to that virus.
Potatoes – Just like with GM apples, these potatoes resist browning and bruising.
Soybeans – GM soybeans are resistant to certain pests and diseases and tolerate herbicides. Overall, that means farmers can use fewer pesticides on GM soybeans.
Squash – These plants are bred to improve defense against viruses.
Sugar Beets – GM sugar beets are bred to tolerate herbicide and are resistant to pests and viruses, which means fewer herbicides, pesticides and fungicides.
Source: Best Food Facts
There’s a lot of information out there about GMOs, and it can be difficult to sort out fact from fiction. At Hungry for Truth, we look to scientific research and data to find out the truth about GMOs.
The scientific community overwhelming supports the safety of GMOs. A recent study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reviewed more than 900 independent articles and research studies about GMOs and concluded that:
• Currently available GMO crops do not impact human health concerns and critical diseases.
• GMOs are not linked to any negative environmental effects.
• GMO crops yield better because of increased built-in weed and insect resistance. This also means they are more economical and an environmentally conscious option, which is a huge win for both farmers and consumers.
• Areas with GMO crops also exhibit increased insect diversity.
• The committee expects increased pest resistance and more effective nutrient usage in future GMO crops.
Other third-party scientific groups like the World Health Organization also support the safety of GMOs as related to their environmental and human impact.
Read more about GMO research and studies:
Everyone has choices when it comes to what they buy at the grocery store, whether that’s GMO or non-GMO, you can rest assured knowing either choice is safe for you and your family.