GMOs

Genetically Modified Organisms

Explanation

GMOs are any organism whose genetic makeup has been changed by genetic engineering. It's a very controversial topic, and it's very difficult to avoid eating them. Genetic engineering can involve anything from selective breeding to actual genetic splicing.
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The Spread of Practical Use

GMO use is very widespread in America. According to the USDA, 93% of soy, 93% of cotton, and 86% of corn grown in the US in 2009 was a GMO. It's very difficult to not eat GMOs.
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Pros

-Higher Crop Yields

-More economical

-Reduces the need for pesticides and herbicides

-Reduces the manpower needed for successful growth

-Improved shelf life

-Improved quality

-Engineered to resist weather fluctuations and extremes

-High content of specific nutrients (helps improve local diets in areas that are lacking in certain vitamins)

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Cons

-Have the ability to trigger allergies

-Harms ecosystem by lowering biodiversity

-By removing the pest for one plant species, you could potentially remove the food source for another animal species

-Could be toxic to other organisms in the environment

-Since some GMOs are modified to resist bacteria and viruses, some people think that there will be newly evolved diseases as a result.

-Potential threat to human health

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Breeding For Traits and Genetic Modification

Breeding for traits involves breeding plants and animals in a way so that their descendants have the optimal traits. For example, if a pea plant has larger peas, a farmer would breed that plant with another pea plant with large peas so that their offspring would also have the large peas. Then, they would take that plant and breed it with another plant with large peas, and so on. The products of selective breeding are not considered GMOs. Genetic modification, is more controversial. Genetic modification, or gene splicing, is where a scientist injects genes from a separate species into plants or animals to give it the optimal traits. For example, a farmer could inject genes into a strawberry plant to make it frost resistant or give it longer shelf life. Genetic modification can also be used to increase the size or nutrient content of a plant.
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Popularity

GMOs are highly controversial, but a lot of people don't know the full story. Most people think that GMOs are bad, end of story. However, while they may have negative effects, they can help feed people in areas where it is difficult or expensive to grow food. There has been a huge push in the past few decades to label and/or ban GMOs. It's ironic how unpopular they are in America, considering that nearly everything we eat is made up of GMOs.
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Practical Examples

-Round-up ready corn

-Frost-resistant strawberries

-Crops modified to grow in areas that don't support lots of plant life

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Legislation

There is no federal legislation regulating GMOs, mostly because GMOs are so economically important to the biotechnology industry. There have been votes on regulating the labeling of GMOs in both Oregon and Colorado.