Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially altered through genetic engineering. Combining genes from various organisms is called recombinant DNA technology. The result is known as genetically modified (GM). You may also see the word transgenic to describe the resulting organism.
This creates combinations of animal, plant, virus, and bacteria genes that do not occur naturally or through conventional crossbreeding methods. Most GM crops have been designed and altered to resist the application of the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) and/or to produce their own insecticide.
However, new technologies are being used to artificially create additional traits in plants, like resistance to browning in fruit, and to develop new organisms through synthetic biology. Currently, there is no evidence that GM crops produce higher yields, are more drought-tolerant, have greater nutritional benefits, or any other consumer benefit. Thus, without credible, independent long-term studies, the safety of GM crops remains unknown. Increasingly, consumers are becoming more educated and choosing non-GMO products.
The primary concerns of GM crops are the following:
- Not enough safety testing on GMOs
- Allergic reactions to the new proteins that are produced
- Transfer of genetic modification to wild relative
- Negative health effects because of eating genetically modified organisms
- Increased pollution due to increased herbicide use
- Decrease in genetic diversity of crops and animals
As GMO products increase in the marketplace, public interest in quality information about safety has increased as well. Most of the concerns center on how GMO crops may impact the environment or consumers. One concern is the potential for GMO crops to negatively impact human health. This may be due to an allergic response to unnatural proteins, differences in nutritional content, or issues like organ damage, toxicity, or gene transfer.
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