When were the first crops genetically modified?

In 1987, the first gmo food to be commercially developed was the Flavr Savr tomato. The Flavr Savr tomato had a gene that prevented the breakdown of cell walls as the fruit ripened over time. This dramatically increased the amount of time the tomato remained firm even after the long, extended shipping and storage times. Since 1987, different seed producers have submitted nearly 11,600 applications for field testing of different types of gmos and 92% of the gmo food applications have been approved (scary number).

What Are GMOs Really?

Often referred to as genetically modified foods or genetically modified organisms, a gmo food is a food that undergoes a genetic “modification.” The genes of a genetically modified food are altered from their natural state by the use of recombinant DNA technology. Recombinant DNA technology is the act of combining the genes from different organisms or rearranging the genes of an organism that are already present. So in summary,the answer to the question of “what are genetically modified foods?” is the human altering of foods from their natural state.

What crops are genetically modified?

So now that you know the answer to the question of what are genetically modified foods, you probably want to know which crops are genetically altered food. The most common crops to be genetically modified are soybeans, tomatoes, squash, corn, cotton, canola, and alfalfa. Other crops that can potentially be gmos, but on a much lesser scale than the crops mentioned above, are sweet potatoes, rice, and many other plants. Other types of genetically modifieds food that are in the process of being produced are bananas, fish, cows, fruit and nut trees, and many different plants.

What are the classifications of genetically modified foods?

This further breaks down the question of what are genetically modified foods. Different gmo food is broken down into 3 classes. The first class is called first generation crops. These genetically modified food crops have enhanced traits such as good insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, and a better adaptability to poor environmental conditions such as cold weather. The next class of gmo food crops are called second-generation crops. These include traits such as enhanced nutrient content of animal feed. Finally, the third generation gmo food crops include those that are involved in producing pharmaceuticals and improving the processing of bio-based fuels.

What are the benefits of GMOs?

Crops are being genetically modified for many reasons. A big reason is that genetically modified crops can be genetically modified in such a way that they would be resistant to insects and herbicides. The idea behind the advantages of different genetically modified organisms is that the crops will be protected from pests that would potentially harm the crops and cause a shortage of food.  Many of the tomatoes that are now gmos were engineered to delay ripening. In theory, gmo food will increase food and resource production while limiting costs. Other reasons are to make crops resistant to viruses (sweet potatoes), to make crops have more nutrient content (rice in Asian countries),  and to make crops more resilient to poor weather conditions. For the gmo food that are currently in the process of being made, the reasons are a little bit different. The banana gmo food crop is being modified with the idea that the bananas will produce human vaccines against infectious diseases such as hepatitis B. The idea behind the genetically modified fish is to make them mature more quickly to allow for greater food production. The reasoning for genetically modifying the cows are to make them resistant to mad cow disease. For the fruit and nut gmo food trees, the hope is that by genetically modifying them, the fruit and nut trees will provide food years earlier than normal.

Who is producing gmo food?

In the year 2006, over 250 million acres of genetically modified crops were planted in over 20 countries by over 10 million farmers. The United States are the leaders in gmo food production at 53%, Argentina is at 17%, Brazil is at 11%, Canada is at 6%, India is at 4%, China is at 3%, Paraguay is at 2%, and South Africa is at 1%.

What are the disadvantages of GMOs?

So now that we know the benefits of gmo food, who is producing them, and the answer to the question of what are genetically modified foods, the next question is what are the negative effects of gmo food? A big health risk of gmo food is the allergic reactions that they may cause. By altering the genes of foods, the body is being presented with foods they are not familiar with. This in turn causes the body to fight off the “foreign” foods causing allergic reactions. Also, when different proteins from allergens such as milk and wheat are transferred over to foods such as fruits and vegetables, those that were allergic to milk and wheat, are now allergic to all the fruits and vegetables that have been genetically modified with the genes from milk and eggs.

What genetically modified foods are sold in the United States?

It is roughly estimated that 60 to 70% of food products sold in retail stores already contain gmo food. The most common genetically modified food crops are corn, soybeans, and cotton. Salmon have also been genetically modified as these genetically modified salmon are able to grow to twice the size of normal salmon, grow ten times faster, and intake up to 25% less food!

Who is Monsanto? (if you are going to ask what are genetically modified foods, then Monsanto can tell you everything about them!)

If you have read or heard anything about gmo food and products, chances are you have heard of Monsanto. Monsanto was created in 1901 with their first product being the artificial sweetener saccharin. During World War 2, Monsanto contributed research on uranium for the Manhattan project, which lead to the atomic bomb.

During the 1940’s, Monsanto became a leading manufacturer of synthetic fibers and plastics, such as polystyrene, which ranks 5th in the EPA’s list of chemicals whose production accumulates the most hazardous waste.

After World War 2, Monsanto became a manufacturer of chemical pesticides including DDT and Agent Orange, two extremely dangerous and carcinogenic chemicals. These chemicals were responsible for 3 million civilians and servicemen, as well as 500,000 Vietnamese children being born with deformities. There is much speculation that Monsanto knew about these dangers ahead of time.

Later, Monsanto developed the weedkiller called Roundup, helping make Monsanto the world’s largest producer of herbicides.

Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, Monsanto was hit by a series of lawsuits ranging from $180 million dollar settlement for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange all the way to being ordered to pay $41 million to a waste management company in Texas due to over-hazardous dumping of waste. It was also reported in 1997 that Monsanto sold 6,000 tons of toxic waste to Idaho fertilizer companies, which contained the carcinogenic heavy metal cadmium.

The list of Monsanto’s “dirty” history goes on and on. From aspartame to rGBH to lawsuit after lawsuit, Monsanto has a dark history of deception and for better words, a lack of “health.”

Fast forward a little bit, and now Monsanto is the leader in genetically modified food production claiming that genetic engineering will feed a hungry world. Monsanto has developed gmo food crops that give resistance to glyphosate which is the active ingredient in Roundup, thus allowing farmers to spray Roundup onto their fields as a weedkiller even during growing season without harming the crop. This allowed for the dramatic increase of sales of Monsanto products.

Monsanto, the same company that claims that different gmos are going to “feed a hungry world”, is the same company that has a strangle hold on the market and is now increasing its prices (raised its bag of corn seed to $110 a bag). Monsanto has patented its genetically modified seeds (as if a company can claim they own biology…) so every farmer who used Monsanto’s seeds to grow crops are subject to Monsanto’s control. At any time Monsanto can step in and say “wait, these are my crops.” In reality, farmers who use Monsanto’s GMO seeds are, in actuality, agreeing to be a tenant farmer on their own land.

To matters worse, former Monsanto vice president, Michael Taylor, is now a food safety advisor of the FDA. The same individual responsible for much of the corruption associated with Monsanto, is now working for the board that determines what is “safe” and what is not. I am not going to go into detail on this one but it is just a scary thought.

Studies conducted on genetically modified food:

1. A study published in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology looked for the effects in rats fed corn (nk603 maize), developed by the biotech company Monsanto to resist the herbicide glyphosate. This corn was approved for animal and human consumption in the European Union, U.S., and other countries as well. In the females, all the treated groups were 2-3 times more likely to die than the controls, and more rapidly as well. The rats in the study fed the gmo corn developed higher levels of cancer, had larger cancerous tumors (some of the biggest tumors I have ever seen), and died much earlier than the controls. The study was unable, however, to identify the direct mechanism for the cause of death. The study was conducted for a full 2 years, which is the full lifespan of a rat. There are many scientists that criticize the study’s methodology. One such criticism is that the type of rat used in the study (Sprague-Dawley) are known to develop tumors spontaneously, specifically as they age, which would make the interpretation of the results difficult to assess. Other scientists believe, however, that the test was conducted well and that the rats were clearly marked and that there were much fewer incidences of the control rats developing tumors in middle age.

2. In a study presented at the Days of Defense Against Environmental Hazards in Russia, a link between genetically modified food consumption and infertility was made. The subjects used in the study were hamsters and after given gmo soybeans, the hamsters began to slow sexual maturity and gradually became unable to reproduce, and thus, infertile.

3. There are many other studies that show the dangers of genetically modified organisms but the two listed above are conclusive studies showing the immediate danger of gmo food in our food supply. There are many studies conducted by Monsanto itself that show little to no negative health effects of gmos. However, these studies were only 3 months long which is not at all long enough for an accurate assessment. I personally never give much credibility to studies conducted by the company that produces the product they are testing (but hey that’s just my opinion).

If you decide that you do not want gmos to be a part of your diet, here are some things you can do to avoid consuming them:

1. Eat at your local farmers market for fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods.

2. Eat organic!

3. Avoid corn and soybean products as most of them are genetically modified (unless there is a “no gmo” food sign on the product or they are organic)

4. When buying meat buy “all natural” and organic.

5. Avoid aspartame as it is genetically modified and very toxic.

6. Take action and inform others as well as supermarket executives about genetically modified organisms.

7. Grow your own produce.

8. Avoid canola and cottonseed oil and consume grape seed oil, virgin coconut oil, hempseed oil, and olive oil instead.

Well there you have it. Everything you need to know about gmo food and the answer to the question of “what are genetically modified foods?” If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask!


Daniel Maman

Daniel Maman's two biggest passions in life are health and fitness. He is a certified personal trainer, has a degree in exercise science, and spends his free time keeping up to date with the latest research. In his free time, you can find him playing basketball, bouldering, and spoiling his dog, Luna.

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