Monday, February 28, 2011

My Take on Genetically-Modified Crops

I saw a link to a survey about Genetically-Modified foods today, asking whether they should be labeled or not. The vast majority of folks who voted believed that GM foods should be labled so consumers can make a choice to purchase them or not.

I belong to the camp that believes genetically modified foods are safe. They have been tested time and time again. I also believe in the benefits of these crops: reduced pesticide use, drought resistance, enhanced nutrition. All of these will become increasingly important as the population grows and fewer farmers are producing food.

I had a few laughs reading the comments regarding the cons of GMOs. I don't claim to know all of the facts, but I do know that many people have been misled or are making incorrect assumptions.

One comment in particular struck me as interesting, "Why mess with nature." Ha! I think it is safe to say that there is very little food today that is exactly the way "nature" intended it. Gardens and grocery stores are filled with plants that are nothing like their relatives before them.

Since farming began, we "selected" the foods that looked and tasted the best, and only planted those seeds. Once Mendel discovered how genetics worked, we began "breeding" certain traits in plants and animals to meet our needs. To me, that is far from natural, or the way God intended them to be.

Genetically modified organisms do have genes from another species introduced into their DNA, but this also occurs in regularly in nature. Viruses alter DNA on a regular basis.

Playing the "not natural" card does not do it for me. But, if I run across cases of people developing extra limbs or strange diseases from solely eating GMOs, I'll let you know.

Something else to think about: Stewart Brand, scientist, author and the father of Earth Day, has gone on record recently saying that he was wrong about genetically modified crops and believes they are a good solution to feeding the world's growing population. View the video.


  1. We were breeding animals and plants for certain traits long before Mendel: just look at teosinte the grass that Native Americans artificially selected into maize. I don't have any problem with genetically modified organisms, as long as they are controlled in a way that doesn't allow them to "escape" and cause unwanted breeding with other populations. The main fear for me is that we'll lose some traditional strains of plants and animals by accidental interbreeding with the more robust GMOs.

  2. Hi Mommy,

    I think you may be confused about how traditional breeding is done. Traditional breeding is done within a "species". A species is usually defined as the ability of individuals within a group to breed and produce fertile offspring. "Breeds" or "races" are different groups within a given species. In nature, plants and animals of the same species and sometime the same "genus" can reproduce. If words like "species" or "genus" are new to you please see:

    I will give you an example. If you take two different breeds of horses and cross them you will get a hybrid. These hybrids will be a combination of the characteristics of the two breeds. All the offspring should be fertile. If you take a donkey and a horse, both from the Equus genus but from different species, you will get a sterile offspring called an mule or ass. Thus Equus asinus (donkey) is crossed with Equus caballus (horse) to produce a sterile Eguus mulus (mule):

    As you can see nature puts some very confining restrictions on breeding. In general, fertile offspring are only produced from breeding in the same species. If two individuals from the same genus breed, usually the offspring are sterile.

    With GMO "breeding" you can take genetic material from different "kingdoms". To get to the kingdom classification you have to go from species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, and finally the kingdom. There are five kingdoms on our planet. Please see this link for more information:

    As you can see traditional breeding could never "naturally" occur at this level. GMO "breeding" is not a natural process and we are taking some very serious risks with our health and the future of the genetic structure of our planet. And, yes, GMO genetics are spreading to non-GMO plants in the same species. Humans are polluting the genetic structure of a number of annual food plants. We have no idea of what the outcome of these experiments will mean to our ecosystem or to the health of our children.

    Also remember GMOs are created so we can increase the amount of herbicide used for growing our food. Do you really want your children to consume even more herbicide residue on their food? I could go on and on about this topic. I would recommend you read Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey Smith for more information about GMOs.

  3. Hi Food Mommy,

    I got some more reasons why you should look more critically at Genetically Modified Organisms. As a population we are putting "all our eggs in one basket" when we hybridize or engineer a few plants for the world's food supply. Please read this article called Food Ark by National Geographic. If we do not learn from history we will continue to repeat our mistakes:

    Blessings on your food!


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