My youngest sister, Maggie, recently participated in her school’s science fair. In preparation for the fair, she completed substantial research in order to address the scope of her project: revealing the plight of America’s genetically modified food system. At the fair, she defended her analysis of the increased prevalence of genetically modified organisms, while also exploring the risks of GMO product consumption. By synthesizing the two schools of thought surrounding GMOs, she presented a compelling case for the dilemmas that agricultural technologies bring to the surface of this nation’s conversation about its food supply. I am thrilled that Maggie will be guest blogging in a four-part series, providing us all with further insight into this complex method of food engineering. As always, please use the comments section of this post to share your opinions with our community!
Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part One
First introduced to food supply in the mid – 1990s, GMOs now dominate the shelves of supermarkets throughout the United States. Today, 80 percent of processed foods contain at least one genetically modified organism. “GMO” searches on Google have tripled since 2012 (Rangel), as the information about this new technology increases.
For my science fair project, I chose to investigate the growing conversation about genetically modified organisms. As more data about them becomes accessible to the public, I think it is important that people stay informed about how GMOs can and will affect them.
What is, in fact, a genetically modified organism? The World Health Organization defines them as, “organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally” (Food Safety). In other words, the genes of one organism are injected into another to create new traits or properties that cannot be found in that organism when it exists in nature. The genes that are inserted can be physically shot into a cell, or introduced through bacteria (Biotech). The new genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals, and sometimes even humans (GMO Education). The process of inserting foreign genes into organisms is known as genetic engineering (GMO Facts). Genetically modified organisms are often referred to as GMOs and genetic engineering as GE (GMO Facts).
Genetic modification is not to be confused with cross breeding (Genetic Modification). Cross breeding is the process of exchanging the pollen of one plant to another (Biotech). The goal is to try to create offspring with the specific trait a scientist is looking for (Genetic Modification). This process though, is limited to species that are related or very closely related (Genetic Modification). In addition, it can take a large amount of time to get the trait that is wanted, many times multiple generations of the cross bred organism (Genetic Modification). Most often, neither plant that is being cross bred has the desired trait (Genetic Modification). Genetic modification, however, allows scientists to insert genes from one organism into a completely unrelated organism. For example, genes from a salmon have been inserted into a tomato to make the tomato resistant to cold water (Genetically Modified). This allows a larger harvest of tomatoes when the weather is unfavorable (Genetically Modified).
Biotech Information Resources. Jul. 2014. International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.
Food Safety. n.d. World Health Organization, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
Genetically Modified Foods. n.d. PBS Learning Media, 9 Jul, 2002. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.
Genetic Modification and Conventional Breeding. n.d. Europabio, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
GMO Education. n.d. Institute For Responsible Technology, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
GMO Facts. n.d. The Non-GMO Project, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.
Rangel, Gabriel. From Corgis to Corn: A Brief Look at the Long History of GMO Technology. n.d. Harvard University, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.