GMO Questions Answered

May 26, 2015

GMO Questions Answered

GMOs and biotechnology are among the most asked about topics on watchusgrow.org. Recently, a group of IFF City Moms, who have toured Illinois farms and wanted to ask additional questions about Monsanto, were given the opportunity to visit their Biotechnology Research Center. The tour was provided by IFF,  with additional support from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.  

 

GMO Simplified.  

Recently, I was a part of a conversation about GMOs. The question came up “does Monsanto take genes from pesticide and then add it to the genes of their seeds and then expect us to think its safe?” There are many questions like this one based on incorrect thinking about GMOs. 

Through the City Moms program, I had the opportunity to visit Monsanto along with a crop of other curious moms. I want to share five points that summarize what GMOs are. Hopefully this will be helpful and weed out some incorrect thinking: 

  1. No crops in the US are the same as they were before (including organics), and have since been altered to produce better crops. Hybrids and cross breeds have been around for thousands of years. Hybrids/cross breeds are naturally genetically modified. 
  2. Biotechnology is the process of making a copy of a gene in a lab for a desired trait and using it in a new organism. This is referred to as a GMO. 
  3. Glyphosate is the chemical in Monsanto’s herbicide, Roundup. Roundup-ready’s seeds are genetically modified to be resistant to this chemical that kills large leaf plants. The genes from a glyphosate resistant petunia plant were added to make glyphosate resistant plants. This is another form of GMOs. 
  4. Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt is a bacteria naturally found in the gut of caterpillars, and is toxic to them but not humans. The Bt gene is then inserted into Bt corn, Bt soybeans etc. creating caterpillar resistant GMO crops. 
  5. Only these seeds are currently being bioengineered in the US: Field and Sweet Corn, Soybeans, Alfalfa, Sugar Beets, Rapeseed, Canola, Cotton, Papaya, and Summer Squash 

So, are GMOs safe? 

The amino acids of a gene are bioengineered. When we consume food, whether it be bioengineered or not, our bodies break up the food into amino acids. Once broken up it is impossible for the body to tell if it was originally a GMO. The nutritional value in a GMO is the same as an organic version of the food. 

Biotech products from companies such as Monsanto are highly scrutinized by the EPA, FDA, and USDA.  

GMOs feed more people using less space and are not found dangerous to humans, yet we have the freedom to choose organic products if we question their safety. 

I hope Monsanto and other biotech companies continue to work at reducing the amount of pesticides and herbicides farmers spray on their fields without adding the pesticide’s genes into their seeds, of course. 

Thanks to the Illinois Corn growers for supplying my airfare to St. Louis, Monsanto for the tour and delicious lunch, and again to the Illinois Farm Families City Moms program in helping me harvest my knowledge about GMOs. 

 

Valerie Johnson

Valerie Johnson Elgin, IL

Valerie is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2013 Field Moms. Throughout the year she visits several Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each tour, the Field Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms, including five things they found most interesting.

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