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Know Your GMOs (Q & A)

By , Enjoy Life
For the past several years, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) have been dominating the health news headlines. But what are GMOs, really? What do they do? What kinds of foods contain them? And—most importantly—are they really safe to consume? Let's set the record straight on these common questions about GMOs.
Q: What are GMOs?
A: Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs (also called GE or GM foods), are the result of a laboratory process in which the genetic material of living organisms is manipulated and then artificially inserted into the genes of an entirely unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes can come from bacteria, viruses, animals, insects or even humans. GMOs are known as ''transgenic'' organisms because they involve the transfer of genes. 
Q: Are GMO and Cross-Breeding processes the same thing?
A: No. In cross-breeding (also known as hybridization), genetic material is spliced from two related species. You may have heard of a hybrid tomato, in which features from one tomato (such as color or size) are transferred into another tomato’s genes to create a third tomato species that now contains desirable features of both.
Q: Why are GMOs used?
A: Nearly all GMO plants are developed and marketed to increase crop protection and yield in two main ways. First, they make the plants more resistant to plant diseases caused by insects or viruses. These plants contain the toxin-producing gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is already currently used as a conventional insecticide and is safe for human consumption. Plants containing this toxin require lower quantities of insecticides. Virus resistance works much in the same way; the GMO plants contain genes from viruses which cause disease in plants. This resistance makes plants less susceptible to the diseases that are caused by these viruses.

Second, GMOs make the plants more tolerant of herbicides. These plants contain a gene from a bacterium that conveys resistance to the herbicides. In growing these crops, farmers have been able to reduce the amount of herbicides used in situations where weed growth is high. 
Q: What plants contain GMOs?
A: The most commercialized crops in the United States include alfalfa, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets, corn, Hawaiian papaya and zucchini and yellow squash. Common ingredients made from GMO-containing crops include amino acids, flavorings, high-fructose corn syrup, lactic acid, aspartame, molasses, sucrose, yeast products, ascorbic acid, vitamins, ethanol and monosodium glutamate.
Q: Are GMOs safe?
A: While studies have been conducted on lab animals, the effects on humans consuming GMOs are unknown and have not yet been thoroughly studied.
Q: Is there a way for consumers to know which products contain GMOs and which ones do not? 
A: Look for the ''Non-GMO Product Verified'' seal on products that are GMO-free. If a product contains the seal, it means that it has gone through the Non-GMO Project’s verification process and that the product has been produced according to practices that avoid using GMOs.
If you want to learn more about GMOs, the Non-GMO Project has a wealth of information, along with a list of verified products.

GMO Awareness. ''GMO Risks,'' accessed August 2015. www.gmoawareness.com.

Institute for Responsible Technology. ''GMOs in Food,'' accessed August 2015. www.responsibletechnology.org.

Institute for Responsible Technology. ''GMO Myths and Truths,'' accessed August 2015. www.responsibletechnology.org.

The Non GMO Project. ''GMO Facts, Frequently Asked Questions,'' accessed August 2015. www.nongmoproject.org.

World Health Organization. ''Frequently asked questions on genetically modified foods,'' accessed August 2015. www.who.int.

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Wow, what a sell out. This is an ad for gmo's. Very disappointed in sparks Report
So this is a sponsored blog, as some have said "an advertisement." Personally I try to avoid GMO's as much as i financially can solely based on trust. I do not trust Monsanto the company that was caught in a lie during a congressional hearing, that they knew about the effect of Agent Orange by their own scientists, they simply didn't care what would happen to American soldiers just as long as they were making money. So why would I trust them when they say they care about American families when they didn't care about soldiers fighting a war.
The other side losing my trust are all the companies that spend millions to defeat labeling laws. If they keep on saying that GMOs are completely safe then why are they trying to defeat labeling laws and using scare tactics and trying to hide what exactly in their products. Big red flags in my book, it makes me wonder do these companies know something that we don't? Report
Tired of being the guiena pig for big industry. Ashamed that our country won't act on GMO's like the rest of the world. Report
I am baffled by the statement in this article that GMO's make the plant more tolerant of herbicides so that they can reduce the amount of herbicides used. Actually, when the plant is more tolerant of herbicides, they can INCREASE the amount of herbicides used so we get more chemicals in those foods. Report
As a biologist who teaches genetics at the college level, I am extremely wary of genetically-engineered foods. I personally go out of my way to avoid them. Contrary to what the biotech industry would have you believe, GE food crops require MORE pesticides than non-GE crops because of environmental resistance. Many scientists are worried about the effects of GE crops and 19 European countries have banned them completely, while dozens of other countries require labeling. Foreign DNA means foreign gene products (proteins). Some of these proteins may deleterious effects on the environment, humans and animal health. Some of these foreign proteins may alter the plants' biochemical pathways. Independent studies have shown that horizontal gene transfer does occur - for example antibiotic resistant genes have been shown to have transfered to soil bacteria, which in turn ends up in water bodies. Genetic-engineering is based on the old hypothesis of "one gene - one protein" which was disproved by the Human Genome Project in 2002. Report
There have been enough studies on animals, and humans alike to determine that GMO's are poison and a detriment to the health of ALL living mammals. It doesn't matter how the spin doctors try to cover it up, it is BAD. Report
GMOs lead to *hugely* increased use of herbicides - I for one would refuse to buy them for that reason if for no other. It is quite hard for me to believe that spraying literally tons of herbicide (Round-up, glyphosphate) on crops is somehow superior to spraying pesticides on them. Neither are safe for human consumption! And glyphosphate has been found by the WHO to be a carcinogen. Report
What a crock! This crap has been on grocery store shelves since the '90s, unbeknownst to consumers. And 80-90% of what's on grocery store shelves are GMOs. ACK! If Monsanto and the rest of the greedy #%@! who are looking to turn a buck at the expense of good health, them let them LABEL their products as GMOs so the consumer can make an informed decision. Go to justlabelit.org to get involved. You sure won't find GMOs in Europe or China. Hmmm~ I wonder why? Report
I am much less concerned by GMO's than I am added pesticide use. I am a scientist, and I understand the research. I believe GMO's are safe whether consumed by humans or livestock. I realize that not everyone can have the same background and knowledge that I have. I think it's sad that people are being deceived so easily and taught to fear something that can help so many. GMO's have improved drought tolerance as well as a decreased need for nitrogen (fertilizer) making them a viable option in areas where food has been difficult to grow in the past. Report
Yes, this is a sponsored article, and I think was fairly written as well. GMOs have been tested and determined as 'safe' for lab animal consumption. What has not been taken into consideration from GMO proponents is the effect that ingesting all the extra pesticides and herbicides is having on human health - whether directly from the plants or from eating meat that has been raised on crops overly sprayed with these poisons. If the cow or pig is fatter, it's seen as a benefit to the ag industry because it will earn them greater profits. But that animal is fatter because of the food it is eating, and therefore, SO ARE WE! Those who want to believe that GMOs are perfectly harmless can do so at their own risk. I'll keep fighting for labeling so that I can choose for myself! Report
GMOs are far more than just pesticide resistance. And as SUSYTWO comments, they're one of the most well-studied areas of research. I'm glad to see that so many other Sparkers are savvy on this subject - this paid blog post really bothered me. We come to Sparkpeople for trustworthy advice - not veiled fearmongering paid for by a company that directly profits off of GMO-phobia. Report
GMO's DO NOT decrease the amount of herbicides used!!
Quoted From the Article Above:
"Second, GMOs make the plants more tolerant of herbicides. These plants contain a gene from a bacterium that conveys resistance to the herbicides. In growing these crops, farmers have been able to reduce the amount of herbicides used in situations where weed growth is high."
In direct contractiction, from the link in the article to the Non-GMO Project: "What are the impacts of GMOs on the environment?
Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs:’ which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange)." Report
You can tell if fruits and vegetables are GMO's by the PLU code on the sticker if they come with one. Just Google What do PLU codes mean. Snopes did include a codicil to how this is not always a reliable source :
However, it is not the case (as suggested by the above example) that consumers can depend upon PLU codes to reliably distinguish between different forms of produce. For starters, the use of PLU codes is optional, so many produce items don't bear them. Additionally, PLU codes were developed for the benefit of suppliers and retailers to assist them in sorting and pricing produce, not to provide information to end buyers. If GM-based food suppliers think consumers won't want to knowingly buy their genetically modified corn, for example, they can simply decline to tag it with PLU codes. Or, if retailers don't expect to price GM corn differently than conventionally grown corn, they can label the former with just four digits and omit the leading '8' that identifies it as a genetically modified product. Report
This is the kind of blog you get when you allow someone to pay you to print it for them. Enjoy Life has products to sell and hope to make a profit from putting this stuff out here. Report
Exactly, Trewesterre and SusyTwo - GMOs have been extensively studied. T, I'm glad you mentioned the genetic literacy project - that's an excellent source of information, and anyone interested in looking at the research can find a lot of it there. Gotta love their tag line: "Where science trumps ideology."

Also a good catch to note that this is a sponsored blog. I certainly understand that sponsors and ads are what keeps Spark free, but that doesn't mean users should abandon their critical thinking skills. Report
Wow. Claiming that GMOs are not well tested is outright false. They are tested much more thoroughly than a lot of foods produced through other breeding techniques. If you want some actual information about GMOs, visit the genetic literacy project (especially refer to the article entitled "With 2000+ global studies affirming safety, GM foods among most analyzed subjects in science"). I would provide the link, but Spark does not allow urls in comments.

edit to add: Also, fellow spark users, note that this is a sponsored blog, meaning it's an advertisement. Report
"Are GMO's safe?" You forgot to mention that GMO's are one the most well-studied areas of agricultural research. And regarding the "Non-GMO" labeling, you forgot to mention that this label is handed out to products, even when that food doesn't have a GMO alternative. Totally deceptive! How about we label what pesticides are present instead, since non-gmo foods usually require more pesticides? I never buy organic, for this reason. Report
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