This is how your food would look if not modified by farmers over millennia

Genetically modified food has sparked an intense debate these last few years. As the science has weighed in, there still is a significant fear factor among first-world populations regarding the safety of GMOs.

What’s the difference between selective breeding and GMOs?

Selective breeding involves selecting organisms with desirable traits and breeding them so that certain characteristics are perpetuated. However, this is limited to naturally occurring variations, which is where genetic engineering comes in.

Genetic engineering introduces genes into an organism from a totally unrelated species. This is a practice that is commonly carried out on crops, agricultural animals and bacteria. These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are designed for many reasons, including: pesticide and disease resistance, drought/frost resistance, increased yields, enhanced nutritional content and as a way to produce drugs or vaccines at low cost on a large scale. When most people consider GMOs they think of agriculture, but the medical implications are wide ranging. For example, genetically engineered bacteria now produce insulin, saving the lives of millions of type 1 diabetics.

The debate is varied, from human health to corporate greed, but one thing is undeniable: humans have been intervening to change how crops grow for over millennia.


Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 9.10.49 AM

In the photo below, you can see how selective breeding over time has dramatically changed corn. corn

So what sparked the modern anti-GMO movement?

From IFLS:

A lot of fear was sparked about the safety of GM foods after a scientist named Gilles-Eric Séralini published a study that found rats fed with Monsanto’s glyphosphate-resistant corn developed more tumors and died earlier than controls. After these results, many demanded tighter regulations whereas others called for an outright ban on the corn. However, numerous problems with the study came to light which led to its retraction from the journal.

First off, Séralini is an outspoken anti-GMO activist. At the time of initial publication he had conflicting interests- he was releasing a book and a documentary on the research. For the experiments, Séralini used Sprague-Dawley rats that are prone to developing spontaneous tumors. He also only used 10 rats for each group, for a period of two years which is almost a rat’s lifespan. The study was described as a “statistical fishing trip” by reviewers – if you test enough variables for long enough, you’ll get a result from something. This is not good science. The recommendation for carcinogenicity studies is that 65 or more of each sex should be used. There is a high probability that the results were due to chance.

Furthermore, there have been mounds of better designed studies that have found no health issues, further suggesting that poor study design is the likely reason for the results, not the GM maize.

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  1. wbfd

    February 9, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    How do you like eating corn that makes insects stomachs explode?

  2. Jeb

    February 9, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    The anti GMO people are idiots. They also believe the world is flat and vaccines cause autism. What a bunch of fools.

  3. Marianne (@flipsville)

    February 9, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Some people oppose GMOs because of the way Monsanto is handling them. They don’t like the Roundup Ready Crops and the way they force farmers to use their seeds.

  4. jrogar

    February 9, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Sorry but no. I’m against GMO crops that are not advertised a such on the label of the food I’m buying. As a consumer I have the right to know what I’m putting in my body. GMO crops should also not be planted out in the open enabling cross-pollination with the wild type. Long term studies need to prove them safe first. And no, I am not a member of the Flat Earth Society and I think people who don’t vaccinate their kids should have their parenting rights removed, not only for endangering their own kids but also other people who for legitimate reasons can’t get vaccinated. Herd immunity is needed to keep those few who really can’t get vaccinated safe. But when it comes to GMO crops I prefer to err on the safe side. The fact is that often when humans start messing with something, it goes wrong (BSE, anyone? Created by humans who fed ground sheep to cattle.)

  5. plunkshop

    February 9, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    The anti gmo movement may have begun with doubt, however when monsanto genetically modifies its corn to withstand treatment after treatment of glyphosate, which is a known carcinogen and hormone disruptor – (i.e. Roundup Ready corn, we know it well) it gives me the food creeps. Genetically altered and doused in herbicides and pesticides. I will DEcide not to eat that crap. Eat what you want, I’m not eating that corn.

  6. Cathryn Sykes

    February 9, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    I don’t believe the world is flat. Nor that vaccines cause autism. And it you can’t tell the difference between plants that are changed by selective breeding over centuries, with the change being due to naturally occurring genetic mutations, and plants that have been changed by inserting created genes designed especially to react–or rather not react!–to certain very toxic pesticides, you are the fool. But go ahead and keep believing everything one of the most corrupt organizations in the world keeps telling you. Monsanto rules…because of fools….like you.

  7. Gilarax

    February 9, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    Selective breeding is nothing like creating GMO’s. Its like comparing apples to tomatoes. In one case you are dealing with current genes and taking advantage of natural mutations. In the other you are injecting beneficial genes that come from completely different species.

    As with many arguments, there are idiots on both sides. On the pro GMO side they can be found saying that “humans have been modifying their food for thousands of years, GMO’s are no different”.

  8. Gilarax

    February 9, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    Additionally, the insulin used by Type 1 diabetics comes from YEAST (a fungus) and not bacteria.

  9. mike z

    February 9, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    listen to each their own. Im on the fence as to its safety. but why won’t they make labeling mandantory? another example of government protecting profits over people

  10. queenb

    February 10, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Jeb do us all a favor and contiue to eat GMO foods as well as take your vaccinations. Once you and the like die from all that poison we shall inherate the Earth. Let’s see who the foolish ones are.

  11. neil

    February 10, 2015 at 12:43 am

    I am anti-GMO in the sense that I don’t like the business behind it. I also know the Earth is round and vaccines have no link to autism…way to generalize an entire group of people though.

  12. AbesolutZERO

    February 10, 2015 at 2:19 am

    Likewise, queenb, I’ll take my vaccinations and be safe from diseases that have plagued our species since time immemorial. Darwin do his job the next time Polio passes by your neighborhood.

    Oh, I totally agree on GMOs, but Vaccines? Come on.

  13. Suz B.

    February 10, 2015 at 2:29 am

    The reason labeling isn’t mandatory is because right wing fanatics will call it to much regulation and government over reach, as they do with all regulations that are meant to keep us safe.

  14. Jess Burgen

    February 10, 2015 at 2:35 am

    Tip — Brush up on your spelling before you “inherate” the Earth, m’kay? Otherwise it looks like you don’t “reed” enough to know anything about it.

  15. Ray Bristow

    February 10, 2015 at 2:53 am

    Jeb, you are the fool and a idiot. Don’t group people like that.

  16. Ray Bristow

    February 10, 2015 at 2:53 am

    Thank you Marianne.

  17. Rosemary

    February 10, 2015 at 3:00 am

    As a scientist, my problem is with Monsanto’s apparent disregard for maintaining genetic diversity. Once almost all corn, for example, is their GMO variety, if something comes along to decimate the crops we will not easily be able to replace those.

  18. Jorge

    February 10, 2015 at 3:28 am

    Well, there you go, kernel corn is gmo, seedless water melons as well. Pretty simple, you don’t need labels, just eyes.

  19. Chris Allen

    February 10, 2015 at 3:49 am

    This gives a good breakdown on some of the *other* effects of GM crops—namely, how herbicide treatments have changed, and how herbicides are now in our food (sometimes even in non-GM food, if it’s used to kill the crop at the end of the growing cycle, for faster harvesting):


  20. Chris Allen

    February 10, 2015 at 4:01 am

    Good point, Rosemary! The Potato Famine in Ireland came about in part because Ireland’s one varietal of potato was particularly susceptible to the blight (a fungus, iirc). The same blight went through South America at the same time, but people were far less impacted because it was traditional to grow many varieties of potatoes, and many of those varieties had stronger resistance to the blight.

    Personally, I think this is one reason Monsanto and other seed companies have established that “seed bank” off Norway (in a huge vault), as well as why they go after farmers who save seed, and part of why they created terminator seeds (Monsanto supplies the seed, you grow the crop… but the crop produces no viable seed for seed savers, so you have to buy more seed from them next time). So one reason they created that seed vault, where they’ve squirreled away a great number of natural varietals, is that if/when major problems crop up (pun intended) with the GMO and non-GMO varieties they sell, they’ll be the only source for other varietals to replace crops that are a problem or get wiped out by disease.

    In short, it’s yet another money-making tactic and attempt to monopolize, at the expense of our food supply and our health: they push to reduce the number of varietals of a crop that are actually planted and in use, and do their best to ensure that the *only* one(s) planted and provided are *their* patented seeds. Then, if something goes wrong, or a disease wipes out that varietal, they’re the only ones possessing other varietals that can replace it, which means they can charge through the nose for, say, other varietals of corn, or soy, etc.

    (And btw, I’ve seen info from organic farmers that there *is* no longer any non-GMO canola, because not enough was done to prevent the GMO canola from cross-pollinating the organic versions. It pretty much wrecked the canola market with foreign buyers who want non-GMO.)

  21. Rick

    February 10, 2015 at 4:07 am

    It’s pretty tasty. That comment of yours is a false equivalency. Insect stomachs aren’t the same as human stomachs.

  22. Cristina Guenther

    February 10, 2015 at 4:58 am

    yeah thats why when they eat a little bit of baking soda they die (stomachs explode) while we actually use a little of it in water while we are sick or dehydrated to replenish electrolytes.

  23. Alrie Middlebrook

    February 10, 2015 at 5:11 am

    With a global food system that squelches biodiversity, controlled by a small number of chemical companies, we are teetering on the brink of disaster. Humans have made a huge mistake turning over our food supply to a small number of people who are limiting the number of plants we eat and, thru GMO’s trying to reduce biodiversity even more. Get ready for a mega volcano like Tambora in 1815. This is how our planet renews itself and its past time for a renewal.
    Tambora created so much sulphur laden dust in our atmosphere, all crops failed in the northern hemisphere for 2 years.
    Millions of people and animals died of starvation. We should rely on regional food systems and be growing many species of plants that nature has produced thru natural selection over 20 million years. Collect and save seeds!
    It is our problem that we have let chemical companies take over our food system. It’s nobody’s fault but our own. Take it back.
    There are80,000 edible plants among 350,000 plants on Earth. Why don’t you figure out how to grow some of these in your garden and figure out how to feed your
    self? Support local farms. Stop buying food grown in the global agricultural system and be the resourceful human that nature intended us to be!
    Be prepared for the inevitability of our planet’s renewal.

  24. Terisa

    February 10, 2015 at 5:13 am

    There’s also the issue of one corporation being able to own a patent on a major food crop.

  25. Neurotic Knight

    February 10, 2015 at 6:33 am

    what do you feel about beans that cause kidney failure in dogs, or weed that can kill certain beetles.

  26. orchidgrowinman

    February 10, 2015 at 6:43 am

    Well I see a few old tropes, and some missing information here….

    First of all, let me offer a little correction to the original article. I was expecting it to be another tiresome catastrophizing diatribe, but it’s actually pretty neutral. The one thing I would add is that “Genetic Modification” as discussed is not limited to “introduces genes into an organism from a totally unrelated species.” That is part of it, but there is also a lot of work done with introducing genes from other strains of the same, or closely-related species, just like “regular” breeding, but faster and less likely to bring-about unfortunate side-effects because of its precision. Plants that are sterile (seedless bananas or oranges) or with very long generations (apples, chestnuts) are targets of this. There are also techniques that do not introduce genes at all, but “knock-out” or “up-regulate” existing ones, to decrease the production of an undesirable chemical (like a carcinogen precursor in potatoes) or increase the amount of a desired one (vitamins, minerals).

    As for the whole
    “because, MONSANTO!!1!”
    trope, I hope people by now know that there are other labs out there, including in universities and governments. It is not Monsanto’s fault that they are among the few with deep enough pockets to get their products out there. If “Golden Rice” or any of the other “GMOs” that have been, or would have been developed could get to market, many people including the poorest and sickest would benefit.

    And (you’ll know whom you are), glyphosate is not “a known carcinogen and hormone disruptor” unless there is some exciting new credible research that is just about to be ballyhooed everywhere.

    I suggest that, if you are interested in finding-out about the whole “GMO” thing without histrionics, and with honest rational discussion, you visit the site Biofortified.org. There you will find the texts of all the research papers, including Seralini, as well as analysis, commentary and honest discussion.

  27. Cheryl Greninger

    February 10, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Sorry, Jeb, but a lot of highly intelligent people are not pro-GMO’s and they don’t believe the world is flat or vaccines cause autism. I don’t want to eat food that can be sprayed with chemicals, then harvested. There are so many permutations that have not been studied or approved. And, Monsanto is not a very ethical company, at all. Why should anyone believe such a horrific company, but someone who gets a profit from them. What is your story?

  28. Cat Xochiquetzal Amanigh

    February 10, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Although in this case, the insect may edge out in the brains department. Although, my exoskeleton HAS been a bit soft ever since I started eating more corn… Oh, right… I’m not an insect. That’s skin. False alarm, people, carry on…

  29. Ann Clinical Psychologist

    February 10, 2015 at 7:59 am

    Uh, no. Selective breeding and hybridization are modifications to the plant, still a species, while GMO add in genes from completely unrelated organisms. Science has very often in the past been unable to predict the consequences inherent in messing with nature.

  30. Jello Biafra

    February 10, 2015 at 8:50 am

    You trust a company with the track record Monsanto has to mess with your food. Who’s the fool?

  31. Jello Biafra

    February 10, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Thank you for an eminently sensible and cogent point. A world with only one strain each of corn, wheat and rice is their goal, and that world is a recipe for mass starvation.

  32. Ryan Schutte

    February 10, 2015 at 10:23 am

    It only does so because of a comformational (that’s a fancy name for “shape” that they use in chemistry) change caused by a protein only found in the target insects. Also, they don’t explode, they’re shredded from the inside.

  33. Ryan Schutte

    February 10, 2015 at 10:36 am

    The nice thing about GMOs is they’re a target gene that we know very well what protein it produces and how it works. Mutations aren’t always so safe and pretty. For example, Huntington’s disease is a human mutation that is extremely harmful to an individual.

    Round up is actually a plant hormone that makes plants grow themselves to death. There are two hormones, one that causes roots to grow and another that causes the stalk and leaves to grow. Flooding the roots of plants with second causes the plant to grow its leaves and stalk to the point where it dies from lack of nutrition from under-developed roots. Plants that have been desensitized to external hormones are “roundup ready.” They lack the ability to uptake the hormone through their roots

  34. Ryan Schutte

    February 10, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Nobody gets out alive, but I’d put my money on vaccinated people that eat GMOs and have a low intake of High-Fructose corn syrup lasting longer.

    I hope you don’t get organic produce thinking its “nontoxic”… they’re typically GMO because its cheaper to buy plant seeds that produce their own pesticides than pay someone to go pull bugs off of leaves.

  35. Ryan Schutte

    February 10, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Go look at the labels in your fridge. If it says “organic” or “high fructose corn syrup” is listed in the ingredients, you’ve bought GMOs.

  36. Ryan Schutte

    February 10, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Oh look an intelligent comment. I have to point out we do have seed banks for such a contingency.

  37. tim

    February 10, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Actually the main thing isn’t about genetically modified food in the sense of eating it, it’s about a farmer. Has to buy seeds from that company. No say a farmer across the field who uses his own seeds he harvested like his father and generations before gets his field pollinated by the genetically superior plants across the road. Well, the company that patented that seed (who have inspectors who go around to fields) test an sees that your field is their seeds and you didn’t pay for their seeds, they can sue you and pretty much take your farm because you’ll be bankrupt trying to fight them in court. I. The mean time your seed will be on hold till the court ruling is over. Buy that time the farmer ran out of money, has to sell the farm or just give in and pay moneseto a % for that corn and basically use their seeds from then on.

  38. Rich Dunn

    February 10, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Jeb, you are the idiot. you have no idea who the readers here are, yet you lump 2 different groups together as one. Also, corn is not very nutritious for humans as tasty as it is (mostly fat and carbs, Mooooo!). In my estimation it’s food to fatten cows. And on that note I’d like to know if the meat I buy was fed with GMO products so I can exercise my freedom of choice to make a purchase or not. Just because YOU say it’s safe makes me NOT want to buy anything containing your poison-resistant Franken-product. But, you, go ahead eat and have as much as you want.

  39. b

    February 10, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    You are eating that corn. The only reason that “0rganic” even exists is years of PEOPLE selectively breeding and modifying crop species in order to make them hardy enough to withstand increasing environmental strains. To think that you can drop any seed in the ground and produce enough food to sustain the earth is absolutely ridiculous. The anti GMO PEOPLE have their head up there asses so far they can’t see daylight.

  40. Jess

    February 10, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Jeb: Asking a company to put a label on the food they are selling disclosing how it was genetically modified does not make one an idiot. Nor does it make them believe the earth is flat. However, YOUR comment makes you look like a judgmental douche-bag, troll. Hired(or suckered in) by the corporate propaganda machine.

    Way to bite the hook, line and sinker you pathetic sycophant.

  41. Ninja K

    February 10, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    I am all for making sure our vegetables, fruits and grains are safe but I am sorry the pre modified versions of those foods look like they would taste like ass.

  42. nicolajones

    February 10, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    I am:
    1. Non-Christian, anti-theiest
    2. College educated, in the soft sciences
    3. I vaccinate
    4. I HAVE an autistic child and an AHDH child, and they are not on the hocus pocus diets.
    5. I am a skeptic, about just about everything.

    6. I am anti-GMO. I would be more open to GMO if it was worldwide, and backed by private scientists rather that Monastato.

    Believing Monastato that GMO’s are healthy is like taking Marlboro’s word on tobacco safety, Big Oil’s on pollution, or better yet Romney’s advice on anything…its called an agenda. Its our job to be critical and find out facts independently and not buy into biased storytelling.

  43. Gnarmageddon

    February 10, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    The bT (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxin that’s been bioengineered into Monsanto (and its patent licensees – read: everyone else, too) corn was rushed to market with only minimal animal trials. The scientific evidence that it was showing up in the cord blood of infants was all but gagged and… well, hey, it’s america, most fat bastards gorging themselves on Big Macs would just call me a “fagit soshulist librul demoncrap” for trying to warn them.

  44. Dee Dee

    February 10, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    While I agree that eating GMOs has not proven unhealthy, there are other issues with GMO. This article is hinting that selective breeding is GMO, it is not. Selective breeding is manipulating the plants’ existing DNA by cross-breeding. GMO is Modifying the DNA by splicing non-plant DNA into plants (or fish). For most crops, in order to make them more hardy against herbicides, which has led to the dramatic increase in the use of herbicides, which has in turn led to many weeds becoming resistant to the herbicide, which in turn has lead scientists to create yet more GMO crops that are resistant to harsher herbicides, etc. etc. ad nauseam.

  45. Dee Dee

    February 10, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    That’s absolutely not true. I’m not afraid to eat GMO, I’m very worried about the impact that using 10 TIMES the amount of herbicide on crops is having on the environment.

  46. Dee Dee

    February 10, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    That should say “For most crops, a gene is inserted….. ” oops.

  47. Parsley Piffany

    February 11, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    The silly arguement keeps coming up over and over. GMO, as it’s commonly used, does NOT refer to hybridization and selective breeding.

  48. Toggi3

    February 11, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    How do you like eating ‘organic’ corn that also makes insect stomachs explode because they spray said ‘organic’ corn with the same bacteria they took the insecticide gene from?

  49. gmofrmr

    February 11, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Farmers have been planting gmos for 20 yrs and you have been eating them/ using them for that long too haha there is such a misunderstanding of these crops that it makes me sick no company is forcing farmers to plant them. They do because they are good for the land and their increased production vs. Organic crops is NEEDED to feed our starving world! Call a farmer for credible information.

  50. Deast

    February 12, 2015 at 12:15 am

    We eat rice, rice can makes birds stomach “explode”. We eat chocolate which is bad for dogs, and foods with baking soda in them which can be bad for cats. You comment is unbelievably pathetic.

  51. Laurie Neufeld

    February 12, 2015 at 3:53 am

    You know, chocolate and grapes and onions can kill dogs, too. Ban em all! Or, I don’t know, be a responsible pet owner and watch out for what they eat?

  52. dancinrick

    February 12, 2015 at 6:40 am

    Farmers aren’t forced to buy from Monsanto. There are dozens of options in my surrounding area.

  53. ann

    February 12, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Or more or less taking tomato genes and putting them in an apple to make them redder 😉

  54. Steve

    February 13, 2015 at 2:29 am

    Do you know there is a difference between field corn and SWEET Corn. Maybe you should spend a year on a farm before you speak We put in 18-20 hour days to feed the world. a banana was cloned 2000 years ago !!!

  55. Swanny

    February 13, 2015 at 4:30 am

    I love the fact that Monsanto is always brought up when dealing with GMO’s. When Dow(Mycogen), DuPont (Pioneer), and Syngenta all either have or are trying to develop GMO’s.

  56. BeachN Sandy

    February 14, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Seriously trying to convince us with lies will never work.. DEMAND GMO food be labeled. We have a right to know before we purchase.

  57. ladyoblivion

    February 14, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    You actually might want to do a little research on that my friend. Bill Clinton was in bed with Monsanto every bit as much as was George W. Bush.


    And as for the Labeling Act…the GOP and the Dems were pretty united on that one:


    I am a Conservative and support GMO labeling…be careful with that generalizing my friend. You know that old saying don’t you?

    United we stand, divided we fall.

  58. Ann-Marie Hunter

    February 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Right on, Cathryn! Monsanto’s desire to control the world’s food production without ANY concern for the safety of consumers or the preservation of farmers’ livelihoods, is where peoples’ concerns should be! If people continue to believe Monsanto’s lies, we’ll all be lost. The comment about “no company is forcing farmers to plant them” is not true! Monsanto has been charging farmers for having GMO crops (which they don’t want in the first place – and actually ruin the farmers’ heritage seed production) on their land, when the GMO plants have cross-pollinated the farmers’ crops! This just disgusts me – as does the rant of those who have been bought out by Monsanto!

  59. Ann-Marie Hunter

    February 14, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    Absolutely, Marianne! I am a beekeeper who is disgusted by how Monsanto has used GMOs to change food production and created a need for pesticides that are simply not acceptable to bees – or humans, for that matter! Colony Collapse Disorder is a direct result of the introduction of neonicotinoids! Paid supporters of Monsanto will tell you that the pesticide isn’t present at the time of blossoming, but that is a load of crap!

  60. Ann-Marie Hunter

    February 14, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    You’ve been brainwashed, Jeb! You are the fool to believe that Monsanto’s pollination of the world is acceptable! Read more – educate yourself!

  61. Ann-Marie Hunter

    February 14, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Agreed, Neil.

  62. Ann-Marie Hunter

    February 14, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Your comment is completely unfounded! Using more pesticides is not the way to feed the world! Empowering more people to grow their own food and save their seeds, is the way to sustainability. If you believe that Monsanto’s plans will feed the world, you’ve been brainwashed! Monsanto has done nothing but build an empire for their own profits that has dramatically affected the health of our planet! They need to be stopped!

  63. Ann-Marie Hunter

    February 14, 2015 at 4:15 pm


  64. Michael Maxson

    March 17, 2015 at 3:18 am

    Mike Maxson.
    Had to smile at the comment that GMO corn can’t take the roundup via its root system 😉 being a plant person I know that round is sprayed on the leaves and is take. Up via the leaves not the roots. If I can recall from my Hort class roundup is like a high dose of fertilizer and it burns the plant to death??

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