What do you think of when the term “GMO” is brought up in conversation? If you’re a conscious consumer or concerned parent, you may be fearful of GMOs and their impact on the health and wellbeing of your family. If you’re an advocate for organic, you may be angry that the integrity of whole foods is being tampered with. If you’re a scientist, you may be excited for the progress and potential that GMO foods hold for our future. If you’re a farmer, you may be proud of the advancements that GMO crops have allowed on your own farm. Whatever your viewpoint is, it is always beneficial to take a step back, review the facts and consider a topic in a new light. This is exactly what the Kankakee County Farm Bureau was striving to do when they hosted a showing of Food Evolution this month. The free screening of the informational documentary was held at the Kankakee Public Library, with a stellar panel discussion that followed.
So… what is a GMO, anyway? GMO stands for “Genetically Modified Organism”, a term resulting from the controversial debate sparked by genetically altered foods. The acronym has since spread like wildfire, but do we know what the term really means? Very little of our food as we know it today has resulted naturally, devoid of any form of human manipulation. For example, humans have been selecting for beneficial traits in crops to produce higher yields for thousands of years. We’ve created our own form of manmade (un)natural selection, even going as far as creating designer dog breeds. These are examples of GMOs. The hot debate that we are engaged in is truly over GEOs, or “Genetically Engineered Organisms”. Advancements in science have allowed us to directly manipulate an organism’s genetics, inserting or removing genes using biotechnology. The result is an organism that is genetically engineered.