Welcome back to The Citrus Tree! We are excited to start the 2020 season. We’ve decided to open this season’s blog by tackling the misconception surrounding GMO and hybridization.
Hybridization is the process of cross-pollinating two plants of the same species to reap an improvement in the organism that creates a better plant. The cross-pollinating process can be done by farmers, but can also occur in nature without human assistance.
The characteristics of a hybrid – seedless fruit, for example – end with the parent generation. Even though the plant was bred with a specific characteristic in mind, they are not carried through to the offspring. Second generation plants from seedless fruit will result in fruit with seeds. For this reason, farmers who produce seedless varieties depend on getting fresh hybrid seeds every year. Seedless plants are a result of planned breeding, not genetic modification.
What is Genetic Modification?
Genetically modified organisms are created by deliberately altering an organism’s genome by direct manipulation. A gene can be removed completely and another gene – not necessarily from the same species or kingdom – can be added back into the genome. In contrast to hybridization, genetic modification results in organisms not normally found in nature.
Why Would We Mess with the Genome?
Much of the argument for the GMO is that we can create crops with better yields, stronger defenses against disease or insects, and are ultimately less costly to grow. The most substantial outcome from genetically modified crops so far is the production of “Golden Rice.” It is engineered to supply more vitamin A than spinach and could prevent permanent blindness and death from treatable diseases (such as measles) in impoverished regions and developing countries that currently lack sustainable foods with vitamin A. While this isn’t a fix-all for curing world hunger, it is cause for more thorough research and further discussion.
Alright Then, Why Wouldn’t We Support GMO?
Despite the stamp of approval by the FDA and WHO, there simply isn’t enough research to prove that genetically modified products won’t have adverse long-term effects. Many of the US’s major crops are modified to resist popular herbicides but the health effects of such resistant crops have yet to be studied efficiently. Scientists agree that diseases such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, some neurological disorders, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease are likely impacted by environmental factors, but there is currently no reliable way to measure this impact since long-term health effects are subtle and difficult to link to environmental changes. Another potential cause for concern is that the possible outcomes from genetic modification are infinite and could result in such wild cards as a non-nutritive plant or a highly toxic plant.
One measurable impact of GMO can be found in the emergence of “superbugs”, which can only be killed with stronger poisons. GMO creates an increased use of toxic herbicides, which are known to cause health concerns and an increased risk of cancer. Currently the laws surrounding GMO labeling are not extensive enough to provide consumers with the information they need when purchasing their food.
Which Foods Are Impacted?
High-risk crops include field corn for livestock feed, cotton, soy, canola, and potato. There is also a high-risk for GMO in animal products due to the amount of genetically modified material in animal feed. Products such as eggs, milk, meat, honey, and seafood may contain GMO.
High-risk processed ingredients include flavorings (artificial and natural), aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup, and MSG (monosodium glutamate).
For a more detailed list, please visit: https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/what-is-gmo/.
What Can I Do?
Even with the vastness of the food industry, there are ways to avoid GMO:
- Read the list of ingredients on the products you purchase and consume. Try to buy simple ingredients over highly processed foods.
- Grow your own backyard garden.
- Support your local farmers’ markets
- Educate yourself on the practices of your local farmers
- Buy non-GMO Project Certified goods
For more information, please visit the following links: