What is a GMO?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
Most GMOs have been engineered to withstand the direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. However, new technologies are now being used to artificially develop other traits in plants, such as a resistance to browning in apples, and to create new organisms using synthetic biology. Despite biotech industry promises, there is no evidence that any of the GMOs currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.
Visit the What is GMO page for more information and a list of high-risk crops.
Are GMOs safe?
In the absence of credible independent long-term feeding studies, the safety of GMOs is unknown. Increasingly, citizens are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to opt out of the GMO experiment.
Are GMOs labeled?
Sixty-four countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, require genetically modified foods to be labeled. Canada does not require any GMO labeling.
GMOs are not currently labeled in the United States. However, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS) was published in the Federal Register on December 21, 2018. This law, which you may have heard called the DARK Act, is the start of mandatory GMO labeling in the United States. It means that some—but not all—products containing GMOs will have to be labeled by 2022. In its current form, categorical exemptions prevent this law from delivering the meaningful protections Americans deserve.
Which foods might contain GMOs?
Most packaged foods contain ingredients derived from corn, soy, canola, and sugar beet — and the vast majority of those crops grown in North America are genetically modified. 1
To see a list of high-risk crops, visit the What is GMO page.
Animal products: The Non-GMO Project also considers livestock, apiculture, and aquaculture products at high risk because genetically engineered ingredients are common in animal feed. This impacts animal products such as: eggs, milk, meat, honey, and seafood.
Processed inputs, including those from synthetic biology: GMOs also sneak into food in the form of processed crop derivatives and inputs derived from other forms of genetic engineering, such as synthetic biology. Some examples include: hydrolyzed vegetable protein corn syrup, molasses, sucrose, textured vegetable protein, flavorings, vitamins yeast products, microbes & enzymes, flavors, oils & fats, proteins, and sweeteners.
How do GMOs affect farmers?
Because GMOs are novel life forms, biotechnology companies have been able to obtain patents to control the use and distribution of their genetically engineered seeds. As a result, the companies that make GMOs now have the power to sue farmers whose fields have been contaminated with GMOs, even when it is the result of the drift of pollen from neighboring fields.2
Genetically modified crops therefore pose a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and to the national food security of any country where they are grown.
What are the impacts of GMOs on the environment?
More than 80% of all genetically modified crops grown worldwide have been engineered for herbicide tolerance.3 As a result, the use of toxic herbicides, such as Roundup®, has increased fifteenfold since GMOs were first introduced.4 In March 2015, the World Health Organization determined that the herbicide glyphosate (the key ingredient in Roundup®) is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Genetically modified crops also are responsible for the emergence of “superweeds” and “superbugs,” which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons such as 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange).5,6
Most GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture and are developed and sold by the world’s largest chemical companies. The longterm impacts of these GMOs are unknown. Once released into the environment, these novel organisms cannot be recalled.
- Fernandez-Cornejo, Jorge, and Seth James Wechsler. “USDA ERS – Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.: Recent Trends in GE Adoption.” USDA ERS – Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.: Recent Trends in GE Adoption. United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 09 July 2015. Web.
- Leader, Jessica. “Monsanto Wins Lawsuit Filed By U.S. Organic Farmers Worried About Seed Contamination.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 10 June 2013. Web.
- Duke, S.O., & Powles, S.B. (2009). “Glyphosate-resistant crops and weeds: Now and in the future.” AgBioForum, 12(3&4), 346-357.
- Kustin, Mary Ellen. “Glyphosate Is Spreading Like a Cancer Across the U.S.” EWG. Environmental Working Group, 07 Apr. 2015. Web.
- Mortensen DA, Egan JF, Maxwell BD, Ryan MR, Smith RG. “Navigating a critical juncture for sustainable weed management.” BioScience. 2012;62(1):75-84.
- “Newsroom.” Agent Orange: Background on Monsanto’s Involvement. N.p., n.d. Web.