GMOs and Your Health Part One: Background

What if I told you that the food you are eating isn’t entirely the food you think it is? Would you be shocked? I was when my biology teacher first told me about a practice called genetic modification and genetically modified organisms and food. After that moment, my eyes were opened to a whole new world. I started to ask a lot of questions that came with this discovery. I found myself asking the same question many Americans do today and have been for years. Are genetically modified organisms safe? People should stop asking this question! Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pose no health risk to people or their offspring can assist in the prevention of malnutrition and can reduce our impact on the Earth.

What are GMO’s

Hank Green, front man of SciShow, defines GMOs, in his video Why Are GMOs Bad? as “an organism like every other organism, which produces tens of thousands of proteins, but one or two of them are proteins that were specifically chosen by humans” (“Why Are GMOs Bad?”). The practice of modifying food on the genetic level started in the 1920s. Scientists figured out that they could use x-rays, gamma rays, and chemicals to cause mutations in plants. This practice was popular until the early 1980s. In 1983, scientists put DNA from bacteria into a tobacco plant making it antibiotic resistant. This showed that single gene transfer was possible even if antibiotic-resistant tobacco was not useful.

Eleven years later, in 1994, the USDA approved a tomato called the Flavor Saver. This tomato was genetically modified so that it took longer to ripen and therefore had a longer shelf life. The Flavor Saver tomato didn’t last long but this approval by the USDA for the Flavor Saver tomato to be sold for human consumption kick-started the industry of genetic modification.

How Are They Made

Genetically modified plants are created in one of two ways. The first way is by loading gold molecules coated with the trait into a vacuum chamber of a Gene Gun. These molecules are then fired into the plant cells and the gold disintegrates and the trait is integrated into the plant. The other way new traits are introduced into plants is using Agrobacteria which can implant itself into plants and disperse the gene into it. The plants that now have the new gene or the transgene are then bred back into the stock where their offspring will grow with this new trait.


“Why Are GMOs Bad?” Performance by Hank Green, Why Are GMOs Bad?, SciShow, 10 July 2015,