Read Time: 5 minutes

The Science Inside A GMO Seed

What we eat is important.

Not just the nutrition of our food, but how it’s grown. It impacts our families and planet—and that’s serious business. Asking questions, especially when it comes to food, should always be embraced.

What is a GMO?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, and it can describe the way many products in industries like medicine, scientific research and agriculture are made. When it comes to food, GMO refers to seeds. They grow in the ground like any other seed, only genetically modified (GM) seeds have certain desirable traits setting them apart. These seeds grow into plants that might use water more efficiently or better withstand pests like bugs or weeds, which means they may require less farmland to grow.

GM seeds have been used by farmers for approximately 20 years. However, seeds have actually been modified through traditional plant breeding techniques for hundreds of years. Fruits like today's seedless watermelon and bananas, which are significantly different than earlier versions of these fruits, are a result of traditional plant breeding techniques. Modern GM seeds still make use of traditional plant breeding to add desired traits to plants—essentially combining cutting-edge and foundational plant science.

How GM seeds are developed:
  1. The desired trait (like disease resistance or drought tolerance) is identified in nature.
  2. The gene for the trait is transferred into the plant seed.
  3. The plant is tested to ensure that it is safe for people, animals, and the environment.
  4. After years of testing and approvals from governments around the world, the new seeds are available to farmers.

Why Grow GM Crops?

If you're wondering why farmers choose to grow genetically modified crops, it helps to consider the challenges they face every day: crop loss from weeds, insects, and disease, and the effects of climate change such as drought, just to name a few. Not only do seeds improved through genetic modification help them combat these challenges, but it can help them to use less of our precious resources like water and land.

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Why Grow GM Crops?

If you're wondering why farmers choose to grow genetically modified crops, it helps to consider the challenges they face every day: crop loss from weeds, insects, and disease, and the effects of climate change such as drought, just to name a few. Not only do seeds improved through genetic modification help them combat these challenges, but it can help them to use less of our precious resources like water and land.

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Efficient Use of Natural Resources

Some GM crops can use water more efficiently than conventional crops—meaning farmers can ultimately water their fields less often. Some GM seeds also promote the use of no-till farming, which keeps more moisture in the soil. This no-till method also reduces farming’s carbon footprint by using less fuel and keeping more carbon dioxide in the ground.

Fighting Pests & Disease

Just like people, plants are vulnerable to disease—and can even see their existence threatened. The Papaya Ringspot Virus was a significant threat in the 1990s. Scientists were able to save the papaya by making a virus-resistant version. The GM papaya today looks and tastes the same as non-GM papayas.

Conserving Natural Habitat

GMOs can help farmers make the most of their land by allowing them to grow food without expanding their farms. This has a positive effect on biodiversity, allowing many species of plants and animals to continue to thrive even as our population grows.

Are GMO Foods Safe?

Farmers are consumers too—and any one of them will tell you that stewardship of their land is among their core values. Scientists, for their part, place the highest priority on the safety of each product and conduct rigorous and demanding tests on each. In fact, GM seeds have been tested more than any other product in the history of agriculture—with no evidence of harm to humans, animals, or the environment. The data have been reviewed by hundreds of independent scientists and researchers globally.

What the Independent Research Has to Say

The American Medical Association

“Bioengineered foods [GMO food] have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”

Royal Society of Medicine

“Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health), despite many of the consumers coming from the most litigious of countries, the USA.”

World Health Organization

“GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

National Academy of Sciences

“...the study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between currently commercialized genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops.”

Modern Agriculture
Means Many Options

GM seeds are just one option available to growers. There can and should be a variety of ways farmers grow crops, and they make decisions based on weather, resource availability, and consumer demand, often with the help of digital tools. More than ever, farmers are focused on innovations in the industry that allow them to grow food while also reducing their environmental impact.

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Modern Agriculture
Means Many Options

GM seeds are just one option available to growers. There can and should be a variety of ways farmers grow crops, and they make decisions based on weather, resource availability, and consumer demand, often with the help of digital tools. More than ever, farmers are focused on innovations in the industry that allow them to grow food while also reducing their environmental impact.

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