Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are organisms or microorganisms whose genetic material has been altered by means of genetic engineering (Dictionary.com). That means it has been altered by the removal of, addition to, or replacement of its genetic material, with genetic material from another organism. GMOs have been around since the idea of man-made DNA (rDNA) was first suggested in 1973, possibly even as early as the 1950s. [DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid, a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information.] In 1975 biologists, lawyers, and doctors met at the Asilomar conference to create guidelines for the safe use of genetically engineered DNA. In 1980 the first patent was issued in the U.S. for a living organism, a bacterium that ate crude oil, to clean up oil spills. By 1994 the Food and Drug Administration had approved GMO tomatoes for sale in markets (they had a longer shelf life than natural tomatoes).
GMOs started off with good intentions, to make things better in the world. Monsanto came up with rice fortified with vitamin A to combat nutrition-related blindness. However, you have to eat 75 grams a day to make any difference, along with having some form of fat in your diet. The original golden rice was created with the addition of genetic material from daffodils and a soil bacteria. Researchers have created cabbage that bugs don’t want to eat by adding genetic material from scorpions (i.e. the part that creates poison), however they reassure us it won’t harm humans. Say what?!?
Selective breeding programs have been around for thousands of years, but that was breeding within a species (goats with goats, pea plants with other pea plants, that sort of thing). We don’t really know the long-range consequences of mixing plant and animal DNA. Recent research in China suggests that we wind up absorbing and retaining genetic material from the foods we eat, and that these in turn can turn on and off markers in our own DNA.
While many people object to the “franken-foods” created by GMOs, they also object to the genetic material that has been added to make crops bug resistant. All this has done is created stronger bugs (as the over-use of sanitizers and anti-bacterial drugs has created stronger viruses). And pollen contamination from GMO crops has been found in fields of conventional crops. Plus GMO crops often demand a higher application of insecticides and fertilizers (more cost, more pollution). In many areas, GMO crops are found NOT to produce as well as conventional crops. Because GMO crops are hybrids, you cannot save seed from the crops for sowing next year (it will not germinate).
Finally, many people object to the heavy-handed way Monsanto has been pushing their GMO crops that demand you use THEIR insecticides and THEIR fertilizers and, oh yes, buy more of THEIR seeds the next year.
I’ve met people from all walks of life (farmers, ranchers, professors, scientists, parents, retirees, school kids) who are adamantly anti-GMOs. So am I.