GMO Food Isn't Coming To Get You, It's Been Here All Along

GMO Food Isn't Coming to Get You — It's Been Here All Along

Worried that genetically-modified foods could be quietly, secretly, making their furtive way towards your plate even as we speak? Don't be — people have already been eating them for a long time now.

The Case of Corn

A lot of the consternation over GMOs — particularly amongst those calling for wide-spread labelling — has centered around the idea that GMOs are something brand new and unknown. But the truth is that for a lot of crops GMO isn't the exception. Instead, it's long been the rule.

The USDA has been keeping updated data on the percentage of which top US crops are genetically-engineered — including the number one farm crop, corn. For the last five years, all but two to three per cent of American corn is genetically-engineered for insect resistance or herbicide tolerance (or both, as in almost 90 per cent of all corn).

GMO Food Isn't Coming to Get You — It's Been Here All Along

But it's not just recently — for corn, cotton, and soy, genetic-engineering has been heavily in play for 15 years at least — and genetically-engineered insect resistance in corn becomes an even more interesting example if you look further back than the 15 years you see on the chart.

Most of the insect-resistant corn — called Bt corn — in the US comes from genes from a bacteria found in soil called Bacillus thuringiensis. But decades before Bt-corn began to show up in US farms about 20 years ago, Bacillus thuringiensis was in heavy use as a spray-on pesticide. In fact, it still is used today, in organic farming.

What Is A GMO?

Part of the confusion is simply around the term GMO. What does GMO mean? Is Bacillus thuringiensis usage a better example of the rise of organic farming or GMO farming? Is cheese, by necessity, a GMO? The answer to all these questions depends on who you're asking. GMO has no set definition.

What is clear is that for a lot of people it's come to stand for something — some murky, mutant future food, sprung up from a test tube rather than the ground in a dystopian near-future. The truth is that these crops are not from some far-flung future — grim or not. They're the crops of our present, and, indeed, our past.

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    Selective breeding is not the same as modern GM techniques

    Give me the option to choose what I eat, label your GMOs if you are so proud and sure of their safety, we'll know in 60 years time who was right

      You're right, selective breeding is not the same as GM, it is far less reliable and more haphazard. You don't need to wait 60 years to see if a GMO product is any good, you can test it the day it is ripe, just like a selectively bred food.

      People put toxic chemicals into themselves every day. If anything, GMO food has the potential to eliminate some of those toxins and make food safer.

      It's pretty much exactly the same.

      In selective breeding you're waiting for a mutation to happen that aligns with what you want. You then use that new mutated thing and breed it with a normal thing and then pick out the progeny where the mutation has occurred and then repeat the whole process again and again and again and again etc.

      In GM the only thing that's changed is you're introducing the initial mutation instead of waiting for it to happen.

      The way that the mutation is introduced in the first place is different I guess. In non-GM foods the cells own checking mechanisms have failed causing a mutation. In GM foods there's different techniques ranging from using a virus to shooting what are essentially 'gold plated rocks' filled with DNA in the hope that it'll get introduced into the plant. In the end the result is the same, mutated progeny. Hell, every second apple you eat could be mutated and you wouldn't even know it because if the mutation is viable then the cell survives and no one's the wiser.

      We've been modifying the genes of rats and mice for ten's of years now and as an organism they're far more complex than plants and cause no change in lifespan or behaviour (unless of course they're specifically sought after) and has allowed us to save millions of lives. There's GMOs which have been developed already that can save millions of eyes (yellow rice) and lives (iron-rich rice). The fact that these GMOs that have been fully developed and tested but are now stuck in bureaucratic limbo is absolutely ridiculous to me.

    The whole Anti-GMO thing has to be one of the most moronic things. GMO is making our foods healthier and easier to grow. The Anti-GMO crowd is just a bunch of homeopaths with little to no basis in scientific fact.

    FYI, All foods contain chemicals. So saying that food is bad for you because it contains chemicals makes you look like an idiot.

      It is not about whether or not the plants contain chemicals, that is an absurd reduction of the argument.

      Clearly you've never looked at the reasons behind why people are against GMO's objectively and unbiased.

      Here are a few reasons;
      #1 - You need to pay licensing fees to grow/use GMO crop seed.
      #2 - Generally, GMO crops can't be set to seed for future crop planting; see #1
      #3 - GMO changes the default structure of the plants to not better our health, but to make them more resistant to pests and things like drought.
      #4 - See #3 and no knowing what those effects have on those that consume those products.
      #5 - GMO crops were designed and used in Monoculture.
      #6 - Not anything to do with GMO per se, but Monoculture is bad.

        Re #4 - Of course we can know what effects GMO has on crops - we grow them, we test them and we eat them. It's the same as anything, like medicine or even a new soft drink.

        Re #5/6 - Don't be absurd, monoculture is infinitely preferable. It's far more efficient but it can lead to a build up of pests and disease, things that GMO are resistant to and, therefore, are irrelevant.

        So of your six points, only one actually relates to consumers and it is completely wrong. The rest relate to farmers, who don't have to grow GMO crops if they don't want to. Yet they do so obviously whatever the objections are, the benefits outweigh them.

          Mono Culture is destroying the earths natural capacity to retain nutrients and it weakens the soil. It used to be, that you would leave a field fallow and grow nutrient crops that were worked into the soil to replenish it. Just because Monoculture makes more money, doesn't make it a better solution.

            Agree with JonSnow and mixedemoticons.... Glad some people actually know a little about the reality. Those that suggest there is no risk or problems with GMO are simply naive. Round up ready crops are bad for everything with the exception of lining large corporation's pockets.

            Monoculture goes against what nature intended and what farmers have been doing for centuries. Just because they can do it doesn't mean it's a good thing.

            Glyphosate works by destroying plant metabolism, with the exception of the GMO plant. The GMO plant will still absorb and store Glyphosate which then gets consumed. Glyphosate can then impact digestive bacteria which can lead to numerous health problems.

            Because of the above, the nutrients in GMO produce are much lower than non GMO produce. They look like the same healthy product which is probably why most don't bat an eyelid.

            The farmers have also been a victim of the GMO giant, by patenting the seed, farmers are forced to buy both seed and herbicide and only with government subsidies can they afford to make a living. Monsanto will happily take lawsuits out on non GMO farmers, where their land has been contaminated with GMO seed, because there is a patent in place its considered a violation of the patent (regardless of how it occurred).

            For those who are pro-gmo, I'd ask if you prefer your salad dressed will oil and vinegar or with round up? I know which I would prefer for my family... All I'd ask is to take the time to do a bit of reading so you can make an informed decision.

              Any scientific evidence for any of what you have stated? Specifically the nutrients and evidence that pesticides are not absorbed and retained in plant matter while herbicides are.

              So you're saying GMOs propose to replace salad dressing with round up?

              I agree though, people should do their reading. But if your reading is a bunch of google searches to activist sites, then you'd be better off reading nothing. If you want to educate yourself about the science, read and critically assess the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

        1, 2, 5 and 6 are not problems with GMOs in general, but issues with specific companies, corporations or groups who grow, sell or develop GMOs etc. These are not reasons to be against the use of this technology, they are reasons to seek reform in the laws and practices in the GMO industry.

          Also, these will work similar to medicine, the companies that hold patents on these GMO crops will lose them after some time, at which point "generics" will hit the marketplace, making #1 and #2 likely not longer applicable.

        re #3 - what about golden rice?

        When I found out Greenpeace opposed something that could save 670,000 infants per year I finally lost what little respect I'd had left for them.

        #1. Regardless of how the plant species is created you pay licensing fees to sell plants that have had certain attributes introduced. the nursery i first started in had a PBR (plant breeder rights) to a specific breed of Acacia, they didnt have a big laboratory, they cross bred their plants.

        #2. anything with a PBR is typically sterile, thats usually because they are bred from a sterile stock to minimise any cross mutations within a species after planting.

        #3. if you change the base structure of a plant it is no longer that plant. GMO is an augmentation of the support structure of the plant, usually in the way a plant absorbs chemicals through foliage, or roots, displays flowers, or the way the fruit grows, ie shape and size.

        #4. a red capsicum and a green capsicum are different in taste and colour to a yellow capsicum, who are then different to chillis, even though they make up parts of the same family. potatoes and tomatoes are in the same Genus as deadly nightshade (Solanum) and all those do very different things.

        #5 because GMO crops can be used in mono-culture does not mean that was their intended effect. mono-culture does benefit from GMO crops, but humanity in general benefits from low water species, high yield species, multiple cropping species.

        #6 is irrelevant because stating a fact about farming is not an argument against GMO

        Simply thinking about how biology works should remind you that its not beneficial for a plant (or animal for that matter) to store waste products in its system or in the reproductive system. A plant that is bred to resist glyphosate use a gene from a bacteria that processes the glyphosate that produces an enzyme that degrades the glyphosate making it non toxic to the plant and in turn anything that consumes the plant.

    I am pro GMO for starters.

    Is there an issue with obtaining the seeds for GMO plants. You can't replant crops because they are not yours? Etc. Contamination over fields.

    That's just about the dumbest comment I've ever read. You either know nothing about it or you have shares in Monsanto.

    While you could technically save the seed if you needed to the farmers have a licence agreement to buy new seed each year. Farmers would not sign if if was not a better outcome for them than growing convetional varities. That said most farmers buy new seed(conventional or GMO) each year as it saves the leg work of collection, storage, treatment and verification of germination rate. In addition they can get access to the newly bred varieties. Most farmers are not growing the same variety they were growing 5 years ago.

      Farmers traditionally do not buy seed, but produce their own from their own crops. It is illegal to do this with GMO seed because Monsanto own the patent. Farmers are forced to buy seed from Monsanto and is illegal for them to save and store seed from these crops.

      The patent is also the reason non-gmo farmers who have had their crops contaminated by GMO crops end up between a rock and a hard place. Next seasons seed will have GMO contamination which makes it illegal for them to use. Courts always rule in favour of Monsanto even if the farmer is unknowingly using contaminated seed.

    The article conveniently glosses over the Patent part of GMO food which is, IMHO, the evil part. A company produces a better seed, they patent it and then Farmers eventually need to buy it to keep up with the other farmers whom have bought it, they create a system where they are now stuck buying these seeds from the companies who can then put their prices up. Don't be under some false illusion that these seeds are being produced for our benefit, they're being produced so someone can make a profit and we all end up footing the bill, the benefits are merely a selling point.

      So what is the alternative? That farmers keep using inferior strains because no-one can afford to do any R&D into better ones? If a company spends tens of millions on creating GMOs, why the hell shouldn't they be allowed to earn money from it?

        Do you work for Monsanto? We've been modifying crops for centuries without the help of genetic manipulation, there's no reason we couldn't continue on that path. I'm not against GMO's per se, I just want better oversight.

          Exactly, no problem with GMO here either, just the free reign corporations are given over a basic human necessity!

          There's nothing stopping other companies from doing just that. They can modify crops, without genetic manipulation, put it up for sale, and let the market decide who has the better product.

            The market is dominated and being subverted by these GMO companies, don't fool yourself, Monsanto are corporate bullies.

      Which has nothing to do with GMO foods, but is an issue with patents in general.

    The issue is not, whether the plant is GMO, but whether or not GMO companies get carried away and go to far, Oversight? How much power do they have, think the gun lobby or even worse, tobacco companies. If they are kept in check fine, but who's watching them and are they toothless tigers like our ACCC?

    Last edited 02/01/16 9:46 am

      Why not simply allow the market to regulate it? If their product is no good, people won't buy it and they'll go out of business. Pretty basic, really.

        You mean the same way the cigarette companies and the gun lobby and several other big businesses are market regulated?

          Different products. Crops don't kill people, in fact a lot of the crops aren't even accessed by end consumers, they're processed into whatever other product they're purchasing long before the consumer has any idea who sold it to who.

          This would be more similar to an industrial industry. Where by products that perform the best, and offer the best value for money rise to the top. Generally these types of products aren't impacted by end consumer advertising, there is a lot of trials and testing involved.

            You're not seriously suggesting that GMO companies should have free reign over whatever they decide to do? These guys aren't in it for the good of humanity or the world, they need oversight and I don't think there's a whole hell of a lot of that being done there. These crops obviously don't kill people, but they do kill the soil they are grown in and there is evidence that they cause issues with other crops that may be growing close by.

            are you just trolling or you actually for real here ? :)

              He has a damned good point, this isn't some luxury item, or a convenience item, this is a Food, a basic human necessity, damned right it should be heavily regulated, no corporation should have the ability to run any kind of monopoly on something this important.

    And people need more proof that the media is one sided trying to push an agenda?

      Not so much trying to push an agenda, as drinking the cool aid.

      All of the pro GMO pieces in tech journalism started coming out post Monsanto paying for a large number of tech journalists to attend an "education" boot camp in July last year.

      A lot of the pro GMO stuff coming out post this event are completely nonsensical, and keep trying to argue that inserting DNA sequences from other species/virus/bacteria is no different to selective breeding which has been done forever.

    This article has been brought to you by Monsanto......

    Nobody has raised the issue of the actual mechanism and technology behind the means of modifying the genome.

    There is evidence (no I don't have the raw research) that the gene transfer technology is harmful. Possibly after several generations the (nano-tech) transfer agents are no-longer present in the organism, then the only debate remaining is the harm or benefit of the actual genes and the chemicals they produce, the resistance to chemical and disease attack and nutritional value of the resulting food.

    The industry itself is in no position to answer these questions due to vested interest.

    And no, GMO is in no way the same as natural selection and human directed selective breeding.
    (mutation plays a small (negligible) part in selective breeding, it is more the case of (dormant) gene manifestation and crossbreeding for desirable pre-existing traits, leveraging the potential already residing in the genome.)

    Last edited 04/01/16 3:34 pm

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