I got started on this after noting the U.S. Department of Agricultures Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will not, after all, share with state regulators, information about genetically engineered organisms released in their jurisdictions. USDA decided wider disposition of such information could have exposed some farm operations to unnecessary risk.
It occurred to me at that point that if someone were to ask me, What is a GMO, Id be hard pressed to put it into words. Its like that Supreme Court Justice said about pornography, I cant describe it, but I know it when I see it.
So, I went to the web and readily found a site sponsored by the Council for Biotechnology. I thought the Council did me a big favor by answering the question with What a GMO isnt.
A GMO is not an ingredient. GMOs do not equal processed food. With those in mind, heres what a GMO IS. A GMO is a plant developed through a process in which a copy of a desired gene or section of genetic material from one plant or organism is placed in another plant. There are only eight GMO crops commercially available in this country. They are soybeans, corn (field and sweet), papaya, canola, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets and summer squash.
The next question might be, WHY GMO? The Councils answer is, to achieve a desired trait, such as resistance to an insect, or improvement to the ripening process. Looking ahead to what might come to pass, theres the GMO potential for an apple that doesnt turn brown when sliced, reducing food waste; how about added nutritional value, such as that expected from genetically modified golden rice, containing beta carotene; or, GM peanuts, modified for allergens to reduce the risk of peanut-allergy reactions. Farmers do not use genetic modification to increase crop size, or to create seedless varieties. Those crop traits are created through good farming practices, crossbreeding or hybridization. You may have heard that GMOs are untested and unregulated. Au Contraire! Quite the opposite. GMOs, its commonly accepted in the scientific world, are the most tested and most regulated product in U.S. agriculture history.The information on this website from which I gleaned this presentation came from volunteers to the Council for Biotechnology, but not affiliated with the Council. Among them are Aimee Hood, Regulatory Communications and Information Management Lead, Monsanto; Alan McHughen, an independent biotechnology specialist and geneticist, and Alison Van Eenennaam, Animal Genomics and Biotechnology, Cooperative Extension Specialist at the University of California, Davis.
I am looking forward to those apples that dont turn brown after slicing!
Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. KARL'S KOLLUM FOR AUG 2, 2014