The Most Frequently Asked Questions About GMOs – Part 2

The Most Frequently Asked Questions About GMOs – Part 2

Are you still searching for answers to questions about genetically modified crops? Our examination of the top consumer questions about genetically modified (GM) crops, as revealed by GMO Answers, continues here.

Do GMOs contaminate organic crops?

barley field

It’s not a new concept to have multiple agricultural production methods—namely organic, conventional, and GM—exist side by side, but ensuring that each crop meets its appropriate marketing requirements requires proper management and care. Organic, GM, and conventional farmers must all work together to support each other’s farming practices.

For organic farmers, ensuring clean seeds prior to planting is a top priority, as is keeping harvesting equipment, trucks, and storage facilities clean. Pollen drift from nearby fields can also be a concern. Farmers can address this through strategies such as different planting dates or field separation. For all farmers, regardless of the production method, clear communication, a knowledge of neighboring crops, an awareness of and responsiveness to weather conditions, and a solution-oriented approach can all help to prevent problems before they occur.

However, consumers should be aware that just because a product is organic, that does not necessarily mean that it contains absolutely no GM traits. According to the current rules of organic production, as long as a farmer has followed the appropriate organic process, a crop can be considered organic even if low-level GM traits are present.

Are GMOs making food more expensive?

On the contrary, genetically modified crops are actually an important factor in keeping food prices as low as possible. That’s because GM technology helps with aspects such as improving crop yields and growing more with less land. It is in part due to the adoption of this technology that global production has risen as high as it has. According to a study conducted by researchers at the Iowa State University Center for Agriculture and Rural Development in 2010, if genetically modified products were not grown, the current price of corn-based products would be 6% higher, and the current price of soybean products would be 10% higher.

When considering the price of food, it is important for consumers to remember two things. One is that over the course of the last 50 years, the real price of food has fallen consistently, which is again due to improvements in productivity that new technologies such as genetic modification have made possible. The other is that a wide range of factors can impact the cost of food (oil prices affect transportation costs, for example, and adverse weather conditions can reduce crop yields), so it would not be accurate to state that one factor alone, such as genetically modified products, is responsible for increasing food costs.

Are GMOs a factor in the disappearance or death of honey bees?

beeColony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a term coined to describe the suddenly disappearance of adult honey bees from hives on a widespread scale, first started to gain scientific attention nearly a decade ago. Since that time, assertions have been made that insect-resistant, genetically modified crops were contributing to the bees’ demise. However, the mainstream scientific community has refuted such claims. While the precise reasons behind CCD are still unknown, it is likely to have arisen from a variety of factors (including microbial disease, pest and parasite impact, and the loss of genetic diversity in bee populations). GMOs are not believed to have been a contributing factor, given that several studies have indicated that genetically modified plants do not cause harm to bees.  However, the indirect impact of GMOs by changes in the biosphere cannot be ruled out.

Are GMOs causing more allergies?

The answer to this question begins with a look at the eight major foods that cause allergies in humans. Peanuts, milk, eggs, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat together account for about 90% of all reported food allergies in the United States. However, when determining the relationship between allergies and GMOs, it is important to note that of these eight major allergens, only soy is a potential GM product. No genetically modified varieties of any of the other seven are commercially available. Furthermore, due to rigorous testing, no crops on the market today contain any allergens that have been created through the genetic modification of a seed or plant. In other words, we know that GMOs do not contain or introduce any new allergens that were not already present in their non-GMO counterparts. Therefore, if someone has an allergy to a genetically modified soy product, the allergy would equally be triggered by a non-GM version.

In fact, people with allergies may soon find that genetically modified products could possibly help to diminish their allergies. For many scientists, a major focus area is the creation of GMOs that can help to contain or control allergies. For example, research is currently underway to reduce the level of allergens in peanuts to a very low level in order to eliminate the potential for life-threatening allergic reactions.