Skip to main content

Genetically Modified Food

Provides print and electronic resources on the topic of genetically modified food (GMOs).

About Genetically Modified Food

Protesters target genetically modified organisms in food.

Since the 1930s, several decades after the Austrian monk and scientist Gregor Mendel discovered genes—small heredity units in DNA by which parents pass along traits to their offspring—people have altered crops or animals by crossbreeding. Breeders select a certain trait, such as size or color, and by carefully choosing the parent plants or animals, develop new species of that organism. Tomatoes may be made plumper, grapes seedless, or oranges juicier. However, the process can take a long time. Often many seasons pass before growers achieve desired results.

For animals, these modifications can take even longer. If breeders want a heftier steer, they select parents who are larger and meatier. They mate the parents, wait for the calf to be born, and then wait for the calf to grow old enough to have babies. Then, the breeders mate it with another huge bull or cow and again wait until the resulting calf is mature enough to have babies itself. If breeders are working toward a specific trait, it may take generations of crossbreeding to attain the desired results.

(Opposing Viewpoints)

Narrow the Topic

  • How safe is genetically modified food?
  • What are the possible dangers of genetically modified food? What are the possible benefits?
  • What precautions should the government take to protect our food?
  • Focus on the possibilities of genetically modifying a certain food, such as potatos or soy beans. Who would benefit from genetically modified food, the consumer or the producer?
  • What is the evidence the illnesses and deaths from L-Tryptophan in 1989 was linked to genetic modification?
  • Why did the European Commission require labeling for food that has been genetically modified? Why don't we have that in the U.S.?
  • Why is there more press about genetically modified food in European countries than U.S.A.?
  • Discuss genetically modified food and allergies, nutrition, antibiotic reserves, pesticides.
  • Should the EPA, USDA, or FDA be given the task of conducting studies of long term effects of biotechnology?
  • What are the ramifications of giving hormones to cattle or other animals?
  • Why is there an interest in sterilized crops? What are the implications?