DEBUNKING 3 MYTHS ABOUT GMOs

golden riceby Jennifer Bearden, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

I’ve started writing this article many times over the past few years. I always pitch the idea since it is so controversial, but it is my job to pass along unbiased scientific knowledge to our county and state’s citizens.

So, here I go! All I ask is that you keep an open mind about the subject.

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants genetically altered through an unnatural process. Through genetic engineering, one plant or bacteria’s genes can be moved into a plant so that it exhibits a desired trait. GMOs’ common traits include herbicide resistance and pest resistance.

Many myths surround GMOs — and let’s face it, even the name sounds somewhat sci-fi and scary. Let’s talk about those.

  • Myth: Most fruits and vegetables are GMOs
    Actually, there are just eight commercially available GMO crops. Two more genetically modified crops–apples and potatoes–have been approved but aren’t in grocery stores yet. GMO crops available now:
    -Field and sweet corn
    -Soybeans
    -Cotton
    -Canola
    -Sugar beets
    -Papaya
    -Squash
    -Alfalfa
  • Myth: GMO crops require more pesticides
    Actually, herbicide-resistant GMO crops allow farmers to spray certain herbicides on the crop without harming the crop. Herbicides used on these crops were chosen for this purpose because they are less toxic to humans and animals. They are not very persistent in the environment; they break down into benign compounds relatively quickly. This has allowed farmers to stop using very toxic chemicals for weed control. In the case of pest-resistant GMOs, pesticide sprays have been decreased or eliminated completely. In either case, the goal of genetically modified crops is to reduce the amount of pesticides sprayed and to use less toxic pesticides to control pests such as weeds, insects and fungi.
  • Myth: GMO crops are linked to disorders and diseases
    Actually, no rigorous scientific studies link GMO crops to any disorder or disease. On the contrary, over 1,785 independent health studies on GMO crops demonstrate the opposite. In addition, each new GMO goes through a rigorous approval process that takes many years. Development of the new genetically modified apple began in 1997 and test orchards were planted in 2003-2005. This new apple was just approved for growers to purchase and plant.online
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