What does no GMO (or “non-GMO”) mean, and what are GMOs?
All living things, including animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria, have a DNA code made up of numerous genes. The genes of all living creatures are the codes that build their bodies and the biological processes – respiration, metabolism, etc. – that keep them alive.
Thanks to modern scientific advances, scientists can take genes from one organism and insert them into the genetic code of another. Any organism – whether it is a plant, a bacterium, or even an animal – that has had its genetic code altered in such a manner is known as a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO).
The notorious Monsanto company
There are numerous reasons biotech companies like the notorious Monsanto have invented GMOs. Two of the most high-profile, controversial cases are Bt-producing crops, which were invented to reduce the need to spray for insect pests, and “Roundup Ready” crops, which are engineered to be resistant to the Monsanto herbicide glyphosate.
Bt-producing crops are GMO crops, notably corn and cotton, engineered with genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which cause these crops to produce their own insecticide, the Bt toxin. This toxin is effective in combating a variety of insect species which are agricultural pests.
Roundup is a weed killer
Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate, sold under the brand name Roundup(1) ( #Roundup ), is an effective weed killer with the unfortunate side effect of also being a highly effective crop killer.
Accordingly, Monsanto invented “Roundup Ready” soybeans in 1996, using a bacterial gene from the bacteria Agrobacteria to confer resistance to the biotech company’s own herbicide. Monsanto has also developed Roundup Ready corn, cotton, and other crops.
These Roundup Ready crops are indeed resistant to glyphosate, although there is evidence suggesting that glyphosate leads to increased cancer risk for people, specifically a 41% greater risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.
For a large and growing number of people, going no GMO is desirable in order to avoid unnaturally engineered crops that are designed to express genes that they would not normally have, genes that raise questions regarding potential health impacts.
No GMO is desirable for some people
People who want to avoid GMOs can do so by looking for seals associated with a no-GMO standard(2) ( #no-GMO standard ). In particular, the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal and the USDA Organic Seal is good to look for because both of these guarantee an absence of genetically modified crops or other organisms.
GMO-free is an alternative to commercial conventional agriculture
Going GMO-free is an alternative to commercial, conventional agriculture in an age of genetic modification and mass application of pesticides and herbicides.
This, in essence, is what no GMO means: by going no GMO and rejecting genetically-modified crops and the agricultural-chemical-biotechnological complex that they represent, many consumers and farmers feel that they are getting in touch with a greener and more natural way of living and experiencing food.
Roundup website ( http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/roundup-ready-crops/ )
no-GMO standard website ( http://greenerchoices.org/2017/03/07/non-gmo-mean/ )