What you need to know about GM crops and biotechnology
The Institute of Food Technologies just produced a video and fact sheet to share the science behind GMOs. You can view the video here, and the fact sheet is copied below. IFT has experts that can speak about this topic and are available upon request.
Genetically modified (GM) crops and foods and ingredients made available with the techniques of modern biotechnology have recently been dominating food and agriculture news coverage in the United States. Food Technology magazine contributing editors Bruce Chassy, PhD, University of Illinois and Wayne Parrott, PhD, University of Georgia, and John Ruff, CFS, past IFT president dispel myths and clarify common consumer questions when it comes to GMOs.
Q: What are GMOs and GM crops?
A: GMO stands for genetically modified organism; and GM crops have been developed with the use of modern biotechnology. GM crops are varieties produced through introduction of pieces of DNA to give them specific desired traits (e.g., resistance to certain insects, herbicides, and viruses). Some more recently developed crop varieties (e.g., rice with increased beta–carotene levels and soybeans with more healthful fatty acid compositions) have traits of direct benefit for consumers.
Q: How long have crops been developed using the techniques of modern biotechnology?
A: The first GM crops were planted in 1994. Although it’s been just 20 years since crops have been developed through modern biotechnology, genetic modification has occurred for more than 10,000 years (Hancock, 2012). Farmers collected the seeds of edible wild plants and planted them in managed fields in early agriculture. Farmers took notice of the plants that were the most edible, produced higher yields, or tasted better and saved them to plant the following season. The resulting new crop varieties often did not resemble their original wild versions. Bread wheat and strawberries, for example, were only made possible through the techniques of modern biotechnology.
Q: What are some examples of crops and foods currently on the market that are from plants developed with modern biotechnology?
A: Soybean, canola, sugar beets, papaya, squash, and sweet corn. Ingredients such as oils and starches that are used in a number of food products may be made from soybean, canola, corn, and sugar beets.
Q: Does the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) review these crop varieties and food-related applications?
A: Yes. The FDA reviews new crop varieties developed via modern biotechnology, and the USDA reviews the new varieties prior to commercialization and marketing. In some instances (e.g., new varieties developed for insect resistance) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also conducts a review.
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