GMO 101: Understand GMOs and how they impact our world
WHAT IS A GMO?
The first step to understanding GMOs is to know what exactly they are. A genetically modified organism (also called GMO, GM or biotech) is an organism with genetic material that has been altered using genetic engineering. In food crops, this typically involves splicing a new gene into the genetic structure of the crop.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
Technology-wise, it’s like adding an app to your cell phone. Your phone is still a phone, but now it can do one more specific task.
Crop-wise, that task could be withstanding drought, avoiding a pest – whether a weed, an insect or fungi – or improving its nutritional value.
As you begin to understand GMOs it may sound like magic, but farmers have been selecting which plants to reproduce based on their genes and yields since the beginning of cultivation agriculture. Conventional breeding will eventually get similar results, but it takes a lot more time.
HOW DO GMOS HELP FARMERS (AND OUR WORLD)?
There are five traits genetically modified crops might have. GM crops allow farmers to protect the environment, conserve natural resources and preserve the land. The use of biotech means:
- Less pesticide use and fewer applications, lessens environmental impact.
- Fewer weeds and pests, which results in a stronger crop for processors and users.
- High-yielding varieties that allow farmers to grow more food on less land, preserving land and preventing deforestation.
- Drought-tolerant varieties that withstand weather events and drier climates use soil moisture effectively and require less water in cases when irrigation is used.