Confused about GMOs? There is no question GMOs (Soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, papaya, squash, apples, potatoes) are front and center in many food conversations and news sources. I have put a quick list of some GMO facts that you may not know:

1) GMOs are not foods.

GMOs (genetically modified organism) are a breeding technology. Sometimes when I talk with people about GMOs, I get the feeling they really don’t know what GMOs are. So let’s start with these three fast facts:

  • GMOs are not Monsanto and/or Bayer.
  • GMOs are not Round Up or Glyphosate.
  • GMOs are not chemicals.

So exactly what are they? Our food has been genetically modified for thousands of years. GMO technology allows us to be more precise in the genetic modifications. According to a Popular Science article – “Scientists extract a bit of DNA from an organism, modify or make copies of it, and incorporate it into the genome of the same species or a second one. They do this by either using bacteria to deliver the new genetic material, or by shooting tiny DNA-coated metal pellets into plant cells with a gene gun. While scientists can’t control exactly where the foreign DNA will land, they can repeat the experiment until they get a genome with the right information in the right place. That process allows for greater precision. With GMOs, we know the genetic information we are using, we know where it goes in the genome, and we can see if it is near an allergen or a toxin.”

2) Herbicide resistant weeds, or “superweeds” are not caused by GMOs.

The reason we have “superweeds” is because weeds continually change to resist pesticides. Superweeds are not new.  Weeds have always changed (on their own) to resist pesticides. What would happen if they didn’t? Weeds would be extinct.  

Yes, farmers have relied on Round Up (glyphosate) for quite a few years because it was so effective, low cost and much safer than other pesticides. But as weeds do, they are becoming resistant to Round Up as well as other herbicides used in the past. The solution? Farmers have been slacking. They need to continually change their weed plan using several methods, including crop rotation and other pesticide control measures to combat weed pressures in their fields. 

3) The medical community uses GMOs.

Perhaps the most popular is insulin, which is used by million every single day. Other medical uses of genetically engineering is drug treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s and cystic fibrosis. Our world is much better because of these medical treatments – all which are genetically modified organisms. And another common misconception – GMOs do not cause autism. Millions are alive today as the direct result of GMO technology. Period.

4) GMOs do happen in nature.

The sweet potato was modified, in nature, some 8000 years ago. Soil bacteria entered the plant and modified the sweet potato plant. According to Jan Kreuze, “People have been eating foods, as the result of GMO technology, for thousands of years without knowing it.”

5) Europe IS importing feed/food that uses GMO technology.

One issue that is constantly brought up by consumers is Europe has banned GMOs. And then it is always followed up with, “why doesn’t the U.S. do the same?” The reality is Europe never banned GMOs (only two countries have outright banned GMOs), but rather, had not approved them. The EU has now authorized the importation of 17 GMOs for food/feed uses. 

6) GMO’s are not causing the increase in food allergies.

Food allergies are mostly caused by eight major food products – milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. All GMO foods are required to be tested extensively for these eight food products and biotech developers work closely with the FDA to assure any new GMO foods do not produce any new allergens. And, perhaps, the coolest thing about this technology is we can use the biotechnology to remove known allergens from foods. Imagine a world where someone can eat peanuts without the “peanut allergen.” 

7) Long Term Studies 

Probably the most common statement I have seen or read is, “There are no long term studies on GMOs.” There have been studies done on animals where the results show no negative effects on animals. And then the question also becomes, what is considered long term? For the naysayers, there will be no amount of time that will satisfy them. In addition, there have never been long-term studies required on any other new seed variety or crop. GMOs are the only crops that require extensive pre-marketing scrutiny. And think all natural plant foods are always good for us? Think about rhubarb leaves and pits of peaches – all which are poisonous to humans. 

8) GMOs only affect 1-4 genes, where traditional breeding plants affect 10,000 – >300,000 genes.

And the 1-4 genes that are changed? Scientists know everything there is to know about them. 

Plant Breeding Chart
Plant Breeding Chart

9) GMOs = Sustainability

Using GMO technology allows farmers to use less pesticides. Less pesticides = good for people and the environment. Not only do farmers use less pesticides, but newer GMO varieties include a drought-tolerant trait where plants require less water.  There is also the possibility of GMO plants using nitrogen already present in the soil as a nutrient. Presently, plants have a hard to time accessing and using the nitrogen already present in the soils. Biotechnology possibilities are endless.  

10) Farmers care.

Farmers really do care about what they grow. Our goal is to grow safe, affordable food. Farmers rely on expert advice that helps them determine the best seeds to plant. We can plant whatever seed we choose. We are not forced into any seed technologies, choices or certain companies. In fact, read what life was like before GMOs

Farmers choose to plant biotech seeds. We do need to sign a technology agreement that says we cannot save any seed back to plant for future years. We know that and understand that. Personally, we have farmed for over 35 years and we have never held back any seed to be used for the following growing season.

And, finally, our farm field (where GMO corn and soybeans are grown) is literally in my backyard. Why would we grow something dangerous to our health right in our backyards? We really do care. We know GMOs are not the only solution, but just a single tool in our farming toolbox. And it seems farming requires multiple tools and I also believe our “toolbox” will continue to grow in the future. 

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  1. You make a reasonable, rational case for GMOs, and back it up with evidence and logic. Clearly, you must be a SHILL OF MONSATAN.

    There, I said it, so the anti-GMO whackjobs who are bound to descend on this post won’t have to. You’re welcome, whackjobs.

  2. Planting the drought tolerant corn for the first time this year. It was the first variety up!! WHOHOOOO!!!

  3. AMEN!! THANK YOU and I am posting your article on my blog (copy and paste with the link back to you) my pinterest, all the fb groups I am on etc- EXCELLENT ARTICLE!!!!!! I am so sick of the gmo hype!!!

  4. Some of what you said is true but a lot is half truths. First I spent my young years on a farm and have a great love for farmers.
    When you said GMO’s have been occurring in nature and for a long time that is far from the truth. Cross pollination has occurred in nature and for a long time but GMO’s can’t occur naturally. Like a horse and a cow cross pollinating. Or to be more specific like the University of Illinois did and cross a cow with a hog. This was done to help the hog out with milk production for its young. This can’t occur naturally and is what I oppose. If it can occurs naturally fine. But your artical misrepresents the issue very much!

    1. Did you happen to read the link attached to the sweet potato? This is a relatively new discovery by scientists. I thought the same as you until I read this new discovery.

        1. Eric could please explain to me by which processes the specific sequence of snake DNA would be replicated inside the cow and how it would be transferred to the cows off spring & future generations of cows?

    2. Naturally makes no difference. Man made can be just as safe or not. Naturally is how ricin and bubonic plague occurred.

    3. Larry,

      The bacteria we use to genetically modify a plant was actually found in nature. It would infect the roots of the grape plant at the soil line, insert it’s DNA into the cells, then the cells would produce food for the bacteria. Creating nature’s GMO….

  5. Please correct the use of pesticide vs herbicides in this article! !

      1. Pesticide is a broad category that includes many types of both natural and man-made control products. Rodenticides, Acaracides (spiders and mites), Molluskicides (slugs and snails), as well as insecticides and herbicides are covered by the “Pesticide” name. By the way, “Pestis” is the Latin word for plague.

  6. I just think Mother Nature made our food perfect, and we just shouldn’t mess with it!!! Grow your own, share it with those who can’t !!!!!!!

    1. You may not realize that roughly none of our food crops are found growing wild in nature (unless they have escaped from a farm). As a species, we have harvested and saved the best of each years produce and planted it, hoping to improve that crop. We have done this for thousands of years. None of our crops are left as “mother nature” provided. Our corn, wheat, oats, barley, and rye would all still be grasses with very small seeds. Not the full heads of grain we have harvested for the past few thousand years.

    1. this is just a stupid comment… Stop complaining and start your own breeding company! If a producer choose to grow seed from Monsanto it’s because they see the benefit from using them… What is the problem with royalty??? Minsanto and other seed companies put a lot in research so why they should not expect a return?

      1. MONSANTO,has sued many farmers, and what about the cotton seeds from Monsanto that ruined a lot of farmers India. Russia banned all GMOs

        1. Unfortunately these are the popular myths about GMOs. Monsanto has only sued farmers who purposely violated the license agreement. Farmers know they can’t save seed to plant the next year. The issue is India is false and Russia has other motives on GMOs other than safety.

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  8. Hey just wondering where you got the “17 GM crops are a allowed to be imported by Europe for food/feed purposes”? I study crop & soil sciences with an emphasis on genetics and one of the main points that has been made multiple times is that there are less than 10 crops in the world that are allowed for consumtion/feed purposes. Yes there are more GM crops being worked on, but less than 10 are allowed on the market right now. I’m not attacking anyone, just would like to know where that number came from.

  9. Nice Article! Just would like to ask what are the drawbacks of GMOs? Is there anything to fear about them? GMOs are not roundup, but roundup is under pressure and is there any truth to roundup and decrease in water infiltration and mycorrhizal fungus and of course the decline of Monarch Butterfies due to decrease in habitat?

    1. So the drawbacks to GMO is the technology is not cheap. I don’t believe there is anything to fear. It takes an average of 13 years to bring GMO to the market place, in addition to the FDA, USDA and EPA approvals. It costs about $135,000,000 also. So roundup is under pressure but what I can say is the herbicides we used prior to Roundup were much more toxic. We only spray Roundup once on our fields. And for example, it is sprayed about 5 weeks prior to start of an ear of corn. It’s not a residual and breaks down very quickly. And I will be honest, I don’t know about the decrease in water infiltration and mycorrhizal fungus. Maybe you can enlighten me. And, yes, herbicides do kill off weeds that are a food source for the Monarchs. That’s why I appreciate the efforts for people to plant seeds that is food for Monarchs.

      1. If Roundup (glyphosate) breaks down so quickly, please explain why so many chemicals, especially glyphosate, is found in children’s bodies and mothers’ breastmilk?

        1. Thanks Diana for your question. I am also concerned about toxicity of chemicals that we are exposed to. I think we need to look at both sides of an issue. Organizations like Moms Across America, even though it sounds benign, is an anti biotech organization. And the unfortunate aspect of this website is they do not allow good robust debate on these topics. They will block you. I know, I had it happen to me after asking a question. Here is an article I would like you to read about the “glyphosate found in breast milk” issue. Thanks again for inquiring!

  10. These are some very good points, even though I am one who is wary of GMOs, I find it crazy some of the myths that are perpetuated about these organisms. I would point out that in point #2 you might concede that genetically modified crops that resist glyphosate do *contribute* to the herbicide resistance of ‘superweeds’. Regarding point #8 you say scientist ‘know everything there is to know’ about those genes, I don’t think we can say that anyone knows ‘everything there is to know’ about anything. Science is always asking new questions and learning new things.

    I also live in the midwest (North Dakota), Great Plains if you prefer, and I do know farmers in our area who will not use this technology even though more work is involved to use the conventional seed. Many never question the use of GMOs, there are such differing views and I do my best to keep an open mind and learn from those who hold opinions that I disagree with. I do value that you take the time to educate on why you choose to farm the way you do.

    1. Thank you for your reply. On point #2 I would still say that herbicide resistant weeds are a separate issue from GMOs. If it’s not RoundUp it perhaps would be another herbicide. I think if farmers weren’t so lax in using only RoundUP for a number of years we would not have the problems as severe as we have them today. But, yet, I don’t blame them in the sense that RoundUp works so well. And I would have to concur with you on point #8. When you talk to scientists who work strictly with plant genetics, this is the statement they make. But I think we all know that science is changing too. And I am glad to hear you keep an open mind. I try to do the same. Again, thank you for your response!

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  12. Very good article Wanda.!! I did plant some drought tolerant corn last year. It turned out great. The plants still need water to grow and reproduce, but during times of lack of moisture, it maintains good plant health. The yield was substantial over the variety planted next to it. GMO’s helped. Less water, more production. As with any new technology, I paid more per unit of seed. Thanks for pointing out the truth of GMO’s!!

  13. Good explanation Wanda. I would share it, but don’t want to confuse people on herbicides vs pesticides. As stated in point #2 – herbicide resistance weeds were not created due to GMO technology. Then pesticides are referred to – the chemicals which kill pests/bugs. If the article is updated to reflect the correct chemical I would love to share it!
    I also know that the term pesticide can be used in this manner, but it is confusing to those who don’t understand the entire subject to use it this way.

    1. Thanks for your input. And I do use the word pesticide, which includes herbicides and insecticides. I will take your advise into consideration.

    2. There was an article recently that Wanda may have shared, From Common ground, I believe? Basically it explained that all the “cides” are categories of pesticides. Athlete’s foot? Fungicide. Kids get head lice. insecticide. Red spider mites on your houseplants, miticide.

  14. Hi Wanda, thanks for making everything simple! :) I have a lot to learn – I think words like GMOs have a lot of bad associations from many consumers without them doing research!

    1. Thank you. I did read your article but I am concerned that I see no references or research linked to the counterpoints. I would have hoped to see more.

      1. There is no research because those “counterpoints” are either imaginary or deceptive. Herbicides? Yes glyphosate is used more now. They deceived by not informing that it has often replaced riskier to use chemicals. They left out that it is less toxic than salt. Then they ignored the fact that all pest control methods exert selective pressure on the pests to adapt and develop resistance. They left out that herbicide resistance to glyphosate existed before the adoption of GE crops. Each and every one of their counterpoints can be refuted one by one.

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