Since then the question has come across my television show, my desk in the form of email and letters, as well as from my audience when making personal appearances. Today, I get at least one GMO question of some sort at least once per radio show.
Needless to say, people still don't have an idea of what GMO means or what it stands for. It's not that nobody doesn't know the answer, it's more like my pals in the media use certain words and acronyms interchangeably and incorrectly. For instance, you'll see the acronym GE used to describe GMO's and vice versa.
Let's Clear It Up!
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. Simply put, it refers to any living thing that has different DNA from its parent. For instance, you are a GMO! Don't get mad at me it's your parents fault. The DNA from your father and mother combined to make you a GMO. In other words, you're a little bit of both of them. That's what a GMO is.
In the plant world insects, environmental conditions (like wind), and birds move pollen from one plant to another of the same or similar species. This mating process produces a new plant from either of the parent plants. Another GMO. Technically, this is a hybrid, just as you are a hybrid of your parents. Breeding a plant in the traditional sense is pollinating from one flowering plant to another by hand. The plant breeder is hoping to have a newer, stronger, better flowering or fruiting plant.
Here's the Problem
GE stands for Genetically Engineered. The mating process for GE anything is really what you're push out of joint about. GE's can be fish, crops, seeds and hormones which are created in a laboratory. The traditional mating process is completely bypassed with DNA introduced from completely unrelated organisms. In the simplest of terms let's pick on corn as it might be injected with a bacterial pesticide or herbicide resistant protein to create a super-crop that resists insects and inhibits weeds to choke the plant out. Now that this corn has been genetically engineered and has different DNA from its parent, it's one type of GMO. This is where the two acronyms and understanding crisscross.
You'd be hard-pressed to find crops that have not been genetically modified (I said modified, not engineered) from their origin. Breeding throughout the years has manipulated most every plant to one degree or another. We're not talking recent history, we are talking hundreds if not thousands of years back. Keep in mind that most GMO's are not genetically engineered (there is a really fine line that we just can't see). It's really unfair to farmers, plant breeders and to ourselves to not fully understand and misuse the term GMO when what you really want to say is GE.
So if you want to make sure that you are getting the most purest form of any type of plant material in your diet for you, your pets or livestock look for products that are GE free because GMO just isn't going to make your ear fall off or an eye fall in your soup.
Things Green Poll: What did you learn?