I saw the best infographic on Twitter the other day. I am a visual person and I learned more about GMOs from that infographic than I ever imagined. It came from the Genetic Literacy Project.
"Traditional Breeding of crops existed since the beginning of human civilization," the project website says. There are four ways to genetically modify a plant:
• Traditional Breeding: Crossing plants and selecting offspring, almost all crops have been crossed for desired traits, no safety testing requirements
• Mutagenesis: Exposing seeds to chemicals or radiation, random changes in genome-usually unpredictable, no safety testing requirements
• RNA Interference: Switching off selected genes with RNA, targeted gene(s) switched off or 'silenced', safety testing required
• Transgenics: Inserting selected genes using recombinant DNA methods, desired gene(s) inserted only at known locations, safety testing required
Now the question becomes, How technical does one get on what is actually a GMO? Is natural selection GMO? Is traditional cross-breeding a GMO? Is there a place one can actually draw the line? Humans have been manipulating plants and animals for thousands of years.
Is it the laboratory aspect that people fear? When two plants are selected to be crossed for superior genetics, the same process that takes place in nature takes place in a lab, the process is merely sped up by human assistance. It is just done in a more timely manner and by physically moving a single trait from one plant to the other, as opposed to letting the plants pollinate each other and then analyzing the crossed plants DNA for the marker of the desired trait.
It takes up to seven cross breeding cycles to do this process naturally, according to Beck's Hybrids.
One can debate what is considered GMO only happens in a laboratory. But understanding what GMO means needs to be the beginning.
The opinions of Jennifer Campbell are not necessarily those of Indiana Prairie Farmer or the Penton Farm Progress Group.