Genetically modified organisms are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. Scientists take the genes from one species and insert them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic.
Genetic engineering is completely different from traditional breeding. In traditional breeding, it is possible to mate a pig with another pig to get a new variety, but it is not possible to mate a pig with a potato or a mouse.
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With genetic engineering, scientists can breach species barriers set up by nature. For example, they have spliced arctic fish genes into tomatoes and strawberries so that they became tolerant to frost. The results are plants or animals with traits that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
So far, attempts have been made to increase the nutritional benefits of food crops but to no avail. The two main traits that have been added to date are:
- Herbicide Tolerance
- Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxin.
Herbicide tolerance lets the farmer spray weed-killer directly on the crop without killing it. Over 80 percent of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for this purpose. As a result, the use of toxic herbicides like Roundup (from Monsanto) has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced.
GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of "superweeds" and "super bugs" that can only be killed with even more toxic poisons, like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange). Needless to say, GMOs promote chemical agriculture and are developed and sold by the world's biggest chemical companies.
Bt toxin crops such as Bt corn and cotton produce pesticides inside the plant. This kills or deters insects, saving the farmer from having to spray pesticides. Unfortunately, the plants themselves are toxic, not just to insects but also to animals who eat them.