Can genetically modified organisms be defined? Biologists classify every living thing into four basic categories (Plantae, Animalia, Protista and Fungi). Yet, Genetically Modified Organisms could fall under several of those categories and therefore are in a category all their own.
Since Genetically Modified Organisms often contain genes from different kingdoms, they do not fall into any of these categories and cannot technically be considered an animal, a plant, a protist or a fungi. Nor can they simply an animal, vegetable or mineral. They are not even natural (as nature has never combined the DNA of two different Kingdoms, in the history of the planet).
Even when GMOs consist of two species of the plant kingdom or animal kingdom, they are technically a new plant or animal. So, really, what are they?
The GMOs lack of definition is turning out to be a huge blessing for biotech companies and a huge curse for consumers. The fact is, the FDA, EPA and USDA are not even able able to define these GMOs well enough to test and label them properly.
For instance, baccilus thuringiensis (BT) is a bacteria often used as a pesticide. The genes from this bacteria (from the Monera Kingdom) are currently being introduced into food crops (from the Plantae Kingdom) used to create genetically modified food so that the pesticide is no longer outside the plant but part of this new GMO’s DNA.
However, because BT is still considered a pesticide, and our foods are not required to be labeled with any pesticide information, this new GMO food is not required to be labeled to contain the genes of a pesticide within it. This creates a huge safety issue for the consumer, because genetic code cannot be scrubbed or washed off like other pesticides.
In the same vein, many plants we consider food crops are being genetically modified with Glyphosate to create a resistance to pesticides. This means that our food crops can and very well may be sprayed heavier even heavier with pesticides. Which, again, are not required to be labeled.
Issues for consumers even surface when GMO food crops are created from species belonging to the same kingdom.
For instance, when crops of soybeans were combined with genes of a brazil nut, the crop was still allowed to be
referred to as soybeans, creating an issue for those consumers with nut allergies because the brazil nut gene did not have to be legally mentioned in any labeling.
Biotech companies would bear no responsibility, even if a consumer went into anaphylactic shock (a type of allergic reaction which can cause death), because legally they are not required to make these distinctions, due to lack of definition.
So, this brings me to the question, once again… What are GMOs? Maybe, the question we should be asking is – what purpose do they serve?
Many biotech companies would answer this question by telling you that GMOs are going to someday feed the world and end world hunger by producing “new and improved” genetically engineered crops. However, this could not be further from the truth. In fact, hunger is not a food issue but a political and social issue. The hunger problem the world faces is not in the creation of the food but in the systems of delivering the food.
And, in fact, biotech companies are making the world’s food supply less accessible by claiming their food crop seeds to be a “new invention” which is then patented. This means that if you propagate their seed you can actually be sued.
Farmers from all over the world are in fact being sued by huge biotech companies for planting this patented seed. Even if your crop is simply contaminated by their crop and it reproduces their seed by accident, you can be held responsible not only by the biotech companies but by the consumers. Several farmers in the U.S. and Canada have already realized this, thanks to being sued by Monsanto (one of the largest biotech companies in the world) for thousands of dollars.
This issue weighs heavily, on the minds of many farmers. Particularly, it is a question of great importance, to organic farmers. What right does a biotech company have to risk the contamination of other food crops? And, with the questions raised by consumers about GMOs, what will become of the reputation of other farmers (as well as other businesses), if contamination occurs?
In the year 2000, many farmers found the answer, thanks to Aventis and their genetically modified Starlink corn. Starlink corn was banned for human consumption in the U.S. because it could trigger symptoms adverse enough to land people in hospitals. Still, somehow, it found its way into the food supply.
In fact, this genetically modified corn was suspected to have contaminated over 300 products and these products had to be recalled. As a result, farmers and other companies lost enough money to sue for over 10 million dollars. These farmers and other companies did not just lose money, due to Aventis’ GMO corn, they lost their good reputation, as well.
So, again, I ask, what are GMOs, really? We believe it is a question worth asking. Ask yourself, ask the biotech companies and ask the government. Keep asking, until you get an answer you can believe in.