GMO facts

What is a genetically modified food?

A GMO is an organism that has had genes from a different species inserted into it’s genetic code to obtain a desired trait[1]. Some examples are:

– Golden Rice: Vitamin A enriched rice from daffodil and soil bacteria genes [9]

– Frost tolerant tomatoes and strawberries from inserted arctic fish genes [1]

-Herbicide resistant crops

-Pesticide producing crops

How is making a genetically modified food accomplished?

There are many ways to go about modifying an organism’s DNA. One way is to isolate the gene that will be transferred (trans-gene) through the use of restriction enzymes, which cut DNA at certain sequences it recognizes[5]. This trans-gene is then inserted into a vector/plasmid that can get into cells. The plasmid comes from the genome of a virus or bacteria that is modified by the removal of the harmful part. Then, the new plasmid containing the trans-gene can infect cells and insert the genes into the host cell’s genome, where it can replicate and spread[5]. An example of a bacterium carrier being used to create a genetically modified plant can be seen in Figure 1.

GM plasmid

Figure 1: How GMOs are made

Figure 1. How GMOs are made

This is the most common procedure to create GM food, but there are other ways as well. Coating DNA onto tiny metal pellets and then firing it into cells is another way[1]. They can also be made through the injection of DNA into fertilized eggs via holes in the sperm membrane, which can be created by electric shocks[1].

Statistics

In the US a lot of our food contains GMOs! Here are a sample of percentages of the food we produce that contain GMOs[1]:

Soy – 94%

Canola – 90%

Sugar beets – 95%

Corn – 88%

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