What in the world is a genetically modified organism (GMO)? Dozens of peoples claim to completely understand what they are, but when questions are raised about them they are often times unable to correctly define specifically what they are. Then again I’m guilty of this, I often times inquire about what a GMO really is. Is it a new type of organism being created in a lab somewhere? Perhaps a new breed of crop? Or even a breakthrough in the realm of agriculture, although maybe consumers are unsure as to whether this break through is a negative one or a positive one. To begin it is imperative that people understand truly what a genetically modified organism is, so we can become more educated about the topic which allows us to make the decision for ourselves as to whether we as consumers are for or against GMOs.
So what really is a genetically modified organism? It is in fact just that a natural organism (such as crops and livestock) that has been scientifically modified to become more efficient and in most cases even tastier and more nutritious for the consumer. The University of Maryland Medical Center defines genetically modified foods as “Genetically engineered foods have had foreign genes (genes from other plants or animals) inserted into their genetic codes.” So therefore genetically modified organisms are crops, such as corn, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. and livestock, such as cows, pigs, chickens, etc. With the introduction of foreign genes to their normal gene pool, these organisms they become much larger which creates a bigger proportion of food for the consumer, which is the trademark of GMOs. With a complicated topic such as GMOs, it’s often easier to just look at an example of a GMO; in this instance you can see a genetically modified cow. (Image from http://depletedcranium.com/belgianblue.jpg)
After beginning to understand more of what a GMO really is, I wanted to learn more about the facts of GMOs and get a more educated opinion about them. After some research it turns out, stated by http://organic.lovetoknow.com/GMO_Statistics, that large abundances of the crops grown and consumed in the United States are genetically modified. “88 percent of corn is genetically modified as well as 93 percent of soy, 94 percent of cottonseed and 75 percent of papaya.” According to the National Research Council, as stated on the same website (http://organic.lovetoknow.com/GMO_Statistics) “it takes just 843,000 cows to garner the milk yield of one million treated cows.” These statistics show that GMOs are actually widely used and fulfill a huge part of the agricultural market.
With a holistic understanding of what genetically modified organisms are it is easier to be able to make an educated decision about whether or we as consumers choose to be either pro or against GMOs. Its an important decision to be made and I decided that since it is so important, I tried to leave out any biased opinions about the difference between pro and anti GMO groups, in order for you to make a more personal decision for you. GMOs are an agricultural innovation, and it is up to you, the consumer, to decide whether or not you are comfortable with supporting and consuming them.