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Debunking GMO Myths

Debunking GMO Myths

This corn variety is a GMO with traits for insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.

This corn variety is a GMO with traits for insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.

I have wanted to write an article on Genetically Modified Organisms for a while now, and have started one many times over the past few years. This is a complex and controversial topic, but it is my job, however, to pass along unbiased, scientific knowledge to the citizens of our county and state. So, here I go!  All I ask is that you keep an open mind as you read the following article.

There are many myths surrounding GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms.  Let’s face it, even the name sounds somewhat “sci-fi” and scary.  GMOs, as we refer to them, are plants that have been genetically altered through a process that doesn’t occur naturally.  Through a process called genetic engineering, genes from one plant or bacteria can be moved into another plant so that it exhibits a desired trait.  Most common traits in GMOs include herbicide resistance and pest resistance.

Myth #1.  Most of our fruits and vegetables are GMOs.

Fact.  Actually, there currently are only 8 GMO crops commercially available.  There are 2 more genetically modified crops (apples and potatoes) that have been approved, but aren’t in grocery stores yet.

The 8 GMO Crops available now are:

  • Field and sweet corn
  • Soybeans
  • Cotton
  • Canola
  • Sugar beets
  • Papaya
  • Squash
  • Alfalfa

Myth #2.  GMO crops require more herbicides and pesticides.

Fact.  Herbicide resistant GMO crops allow farmers to spray certain herbicides to control weeds in 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, meaning they breakdown into benign compounds relatively quickly.  This has allowed farmers to stop using other more toxic chemicals for weed control.  In the case of pest resistant GMOs, the need to apply pesticides has been reduced or eliminated completely.  In either case, the goal of genetically modified crops is to reduce the amount of herbicides and pesticides sprayed, and to use less toxic herbicides and pesticides to control pests such as weeds, insects, and fungi.

Myth #3.  GMO crops are a health hazard and are linked to disorders and diseases.

Fact.  There have been no rigorous scientific studies that link GMO crops to any disorder or disease.  On the contrary, over 1,785 independent health studies have been done on GMO crops that demonstrate the opposite.  Plus, each new GMO goes through a rigorous approval process that takes many years.  The 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.

For more information about Genetically Modified foods, please use the following research-based sources:

 

PG

Author: Jennifer Bearden – bearden@ufl.edu

Agriculture Agent Okaloosa County

Jennifer Bearden

Permanent link to this article: http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/08/01/debunking-gmo-myths/