Disclaimer: I have decided to write about the controversial topic of genetically modified organisms, GMOs, due to the large amount of misinformation I have seen on the subject. My goal is to educate, so my readers can make informed decisions regarding this topic. I am not trying to persuade people to be pro- or anti-GMO. This is your decision, and, please, make it wisely, since it now affects our every day lives.
To understand what genetically modified organisms are, we need to explore some basic science concepts. All life is made up of small building blocks, or units, called cells. Each cell has blueprints, or a set of directions, which tells it how to function, and communicate with the environment. These set of directions are what allows for differentiation, making the cells in your liver different from the cells in your brain. This information is called DNA, and it is the most important aspect of life.
DNA has been changing throughout the history of life, creating the vast diversity of living organisms. This means DNA is not static; it is forever evolving. Another name for genetic modification is domestication, an artificial selection process by humans.
We have been domesticating and changing the DNA of our food ever since humans started farming. The corn we eat today is not the same corn we ate 8,000 years ago. Originally, corn only had a small handful of edible kernels. Ancient farmers were able to drastically change the size and quantity of the kernels through classical breeding. Classical breeding of plants is very similar to the breeding of show dogs. The plants or dogs with the desired characteristics are mated together to create a new more favorable generation. Instead of creating shorter tails, or longer legs, plant breeding has allowed us to create more nutritious food. Classical breeding is considered natural, but it is still genetically modifying organisms to benefit humans.
Using modern technology, we are able to create the same effects as classical breeding, but at a much faster pace, allowing for a rapid acceleration of our food supply. Biotechnology, and our advanced knowledge of DNA, allows us to take small parts of DNA from one organism, and place it into another. By understanding, and being able to read the genetic code, DNA, scientists are able to transfer only the necessary information. It is important to understand that scientists are not just putting random parts of information from one plant or organism into another. The most successful GMOs contain the smallest amount of transplanted information. Additionally, scientists place the new information into specific safe locations in the DNA of the organism they are trying to modify.
Humans have always manipulated the environment around them, and genetic manipulation is an unavoidable side effect. The question isn't whether you are for or against GMOs, but where do you draw the line? Are you OK with GMOs that are created through Biotechnology, if they could also be created by years of classical breeding? Or is the technology itself the problem?