General Question

LadyMarissa's avatar

When does GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) become a non-GMO?

Asked by LadyMarissa (10059points) July 23rd, 2019

I have been reading for years how Monsanto got their foot in the door early on to provide GMO seeds to the masses even arranging it where all farmers had to buy their seeds from them. Now that we know that GMO food brings health problems, I’m seeing a lot of products marketed as non-GMO. If Monsanto is still in control of the seeds that are used in the farms that grow our food, at what point is it turned into a non-GMO??? If the original seed is a GMO, how many generations of reproduction does it take to return to a non-GMO state??? What rules are applied to a product at the grocery store in order for it to claim to be a non-GMO???

I hear a lot of homesteaders clam that they are growing non-GMO food. If the original seeds were GMO’d, how are they growing non-GMO food??? I know I have lots of questions but I’m searching for probably only a few simple answers that will cover most of them. What do you know about Genetically Modified foods???

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38 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

Monsanto and others produce seeds that supposedly do not reproduce on their own. It is a bit like crossing a horse with a donkey to produce mules. The mules are sterile.
Seed manufacturer do this for several reasons. But the biggest reason is profit motive. They want to force the farmer to buy the seeds from them every year.

That said, mankind has been genetically modifying crops for thousands of years. they replanted the seeds from crops they liked and discarded plants that did not do well in their climate.

elbanditoroso's avatar

GMO is a completely made-up, populist, lying issue.

Every plant in the world is GMO, because all plants are pollinated and cross-pollinated and their genes are, as part of nature, genetically changed, How else did we get different colored roses or tulips of tree leaves?

Every time a botanist did a tree graft, that was GMO work taking place.

So it’s a little rich for the non-GMO crowd today to be squawking about GMO this and that, when it is a natural part of growth and has been so for millennia.

Now, as @LuckyGuy says, if you want to gripe about merchandising and monopolization – that’s another issue altogether. But GMO is perfectly normal and should be celebrated, not criticized.

kritiper's avatar

It doesn’t.

LadyMarissa's avatar

@elbanditoroso I’m NOT griping about anything…just trying to learn something!!!

ragingloli's avatar

Technically all food is genetically modified.
Here is the difference:
Classically cultivated crops were modified over many generations with gradual changes, so that any negative ones are not immediately so debilitating or dangerous, that you can control it easily.
When you flip a switch in a lab, the changes can be drastic, and that switch can often act as a switch for other switches that you inadvertantyl flip as well, so you can get changes that are completely unexpected.
And because there is little oversight over what they are doing, you could easily release something onto the market, that could turn out to be quite dangerous.
It is like the radioactive products that were openly sold at the beginning of the 2th century, before people actually understood what radiation does to people.
Or the CFC laden spray bottles, that ripped a hole into the Ozone Layer.
Or the excessive use of fertilisers, that seeped into the ground water and damaged the ecosystems of rivers and lakes.
Or the excessive use of insect killers, that ravage pollinating insect populations.
Or the unfiltered excretions of industries, that caused acidic rain and entire forests to die.
At the very least, lab-tampered food should be clearly labelled, so that people can make the choice to not take these risks.

LadyMarissa's avatar

^ Thank you…that makes sense!!!

ragingloli's avatar

In principle, I am not at all opposed to GMO foods.
I just do not trust profit oriented, quarter driven, multinational corporations, run by faceless boards of directors and shareholders, to put in the required safeguards and care to minimise the risks.

gorillapaws's avatar

I have a couple of issues with GMO in the way it’s being implemented by Big Agra. The first is that glyphosate (i.e. Roundup) is now ending up everywhere. There are potentially serious implications of this. The other is that we’re greatly reducing the genetic diversity of our global food supply. This means humans could be in trouble if the wrong organism comes along (i.e. plant disease or pest) and our genetically homogenic food supply isn’t equipped to adapt to the threat. So my concern isn’t with the technique of modifying genes, which has been going on since the beginning of agriculture via artificial selection as (@LuckyGuy pointed out), but with the practices of modern agriculture that GMO enables.

zenvelo's avatar

Now that we know that GMO food brings health problems, as a statement would be better to say some GMO foods bring health problems .

But @elbanditoroso ”...a completely made up, populist. lying issue” is also false.

Some GMO foods have been crafted to make glyphosphate resistant, so that the crop can be sprayed and only weeds get killed. And then the glyphosphate gets into the food stream.

Other GMO changes have created robust crop growth resulting in indigestible foods.

So GMOs have been and are beneficial, others have unintended consequences.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The sinister aspects of GMO should not be glossed over with the argument “we’ve always done it”, as though current gene manipulation is mere continuation of cross breeding techniques of the past. And Monsanto in particular illustrates the potential for evil accompanying the ballyhooed benefits.

Zaku's avatar

@LuckyGuy “That said, mankind has been genetically modifying crops for thousands of years. they replanted the seeds from crops they liked and discarded plants that did not do well in their climate.”

@elbanditoroso “GMO is a completely made-up, populist, lying issue.”

“Every plant in the world is GMO, because all plants are pollinated and cross-pollinated and their genes are, as part of nature, genetically changed, How else did we get different colored roses or tulips of tree leaves?”

Every time a botanist did a tree graft, that was GMO work taking place.”

“So it’s a little rich for the non-GMO crowd today to be squawking about GMO this and that, when it is a natural part of growth and has been so for millennia.”

“Now, as @LuckyGuy says, if you want to gripe about merchandising and monopolization – that’s another issue altogether. But GMO is perfectly normal and should be celebrated, not criticized.”


The GMO industry with help from the FDA have managed to confuse conversations about GMOs by inconsistent use of the words “genetically-modified organism”.

Natural and traditional agricultural selection of individuals with certain traits for reproduction over generations of regular reproduction IS NOT THE SAME THING as using a laboratory to directly modify the DNA of an organism through genetic engineering. Particularly not by splicing in DNA from entirely different species:

from :
“In most cases, GMOs have been altered with DNA from another organism, be it a bacterium, plant, virus or animal; these organisms are sometimes referred to as “transgenic” organisms. Genetics from a spider that helps the arachnid produce silk, for example, could be inserted into the DNA of an ordinary goat.”

That’s not at all the same thing as only allowing the goats with the smoothest coats to reproduce for several generations.

Sadly, there is still a pervasive repetition in public and published conversations about GMOs that says things like @LuckyGuy and @elbanditoroso wrote, where they make it sound like GMO is a meaningless distinction and nothing new. It’s a truthy-sounding falsehood that the corporations (and people who don’t want to face terrifying truths about the food industry) love to perpetuate and hide out behind.

And back to the original question of when a GMO becomes a non-GMO… the answer is never, unless perhaps accidentally it were one which could still reproduce, and it had few gene modifications that all somehow got bred out naturally over many generations.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Zaku ”[Spider goats are] not at all the same thing as only allowing the goats with the smoothest coats to reproduce for several generations.”

It’s theoretically possible to end up with the exact same Spider goat DNA sequence using selective breeding techniques and infinite time as one could via gene splicing. I mean look at the variation of dogs out there. The popular breeds mostly arose from selective breeding in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (as I understand it).

Caravanfan's avatar

The premise of your question is incorrect. You wrote “Now that we know that GMO food brings health problems”

That statement is completely false.

Caravanfan's avatar

And just to be absolutely crystal clear in where I come from, anti GMO advocates are BARELY better than antivaxx advocates. If anti-GMO people had their way millions of people will die from starvation.

Zaku's avatar

@gorillapaws Selective breeding involves looking at traits of an organism, and breeding it but not others, then looking at their actual features, etc. That means only genes and chromosomes from actual individuals of those species (or ones that can breed with them) are used. You’re not going to get spider genes in your goats that way. If somehow by coincidence there are genes with the same codes as the genes in spiders that were selected by genetic engineers, that would be extremely fortuitous (and the genetic engineers probably wouldn’t have gone for spider genes), and the odds of being able to cause that DNA-level manipulation by breeding is also vanishingly small.

I’d say it’s astronomically less likely that you’ll get a spider goat from selective breeding, than that someone you wish were dead will just happen to be killed by a meteor.

Zaku's avatar

@Caravanfan Funny, I feel about the same way about people who spread disinformation in favor of the GMO industry. Enjoy your Kellogg’s Glysophate-laced GMO Frosted Flakes.

ragingloli's avatar

“I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here: it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility… for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and before you even knew what you had you patented it and packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it. You want to sell it!” – Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park

Caravanfan's avatar

@zaku I don’t eat Frosted Flakes—I generally have yogurt and fruit in the morning. Sometimes I’ll eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Occasionally Cheerios.

Zaku's avatar

@Caravanfan Good thing you’re sure it’s “completely false” that GMO food has any health problems. ( )

gorillapaws's avatar

@Zaku Tell that to the English bulldog, the toy poodle, or the retriever with webbed feet. Selective breeding is simply a slow and inefficient method to manipulate genes, whereas gene splicing is faster and more effective (radically so) process for manipulating genes.

Zaku's avatar

@Caravanfan Disagreement (especially from industrial sources) about the dangers of GMOs seems to me a lower bar than saying GMO health risks are “completely false”, especially with issues such I just posted, the concerns @ragingloli has outlined, and many countries and regions having GMO bans:

Countries with GMO prohibitions:

Algeria: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
Austria: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Azerbaijan: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Belize: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Bhutan: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Bulgaria: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Croatia: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Cyprus: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Denmark: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Ecuador: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
France: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Germany: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Greece: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Hungary: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Italy: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Kenya: Cultivation prohibited. Imports banned.
Kyrgyzstan: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
Latvia: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Lithuania: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Luxembourg: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Madagascar: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
Malta: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Moldova: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Netherlands: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales (United Kingdom): Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Norway: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Peru: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
Poland: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Russia: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
Saudi Arabia: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Serbia: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Slovenia: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.
Switzerland: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Turkey: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Ukraine: Cultivation banned (though law is widely ignored). Imports allowed.
Venezuela: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.
Zimbabwe: Cultivation banned. Imports banned.

Regions with GMO prohibitions:

Humboldt (+Arcata City), California, US: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Marin, California, US: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Mendocino (+City of Point Arena), California, US: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Trinity, California, US: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Santa Cruz, California, US: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Boulder County (+Boulder City), Colorado, US: planned ban GMO corn and sugar beets on county-owned land by 2019 & 2021 respectively
Montville County, Maine, US: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
San Juan County, Washington, US: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
South Australia, Australia: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Tasmania, Australia: Cultivation banned. Imports allowed.
Wallonian Region, Belgium: Cultivation prohibited. Imports allowed.

Zaku's avatar

@gorillapaws I don’t think you’ve understood what I’ve tried to explain about the nature of the differences, and I don’t expect the dogs are going to be particularly interested.

They might be interested if/when their species are no longer allowed to reproduce because people eventually prefer GMO dog breeds instead. Why have a natural Newfoundland when you can get a Spider-Newfie (patent: Monsanto/Bayer) that has 90% less drool and doesn’t suffer from hip displasia, and generates anti-flea&tick pesticides that the industry bought reports to say is completely safe? (Their main chance is that animal rights advances faster than GMO implementation.)

What . Could . Go . Wrong?

Caravanfan's avatar

@Zaku OMG!!! Latvia banned it! Holy shit!

Zaku's avatar

@Caravanfan Yet another example of you trying to deflect information in ways that have no substance.

Do you have a substantive reason for belittling the wisdom of the Latvian government? And why mention them and not Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Poland, or the many other countries and regions?

Caravanfan's avatar

Argumentem ad populum.

flo's avatar

Which side (pro “GMO is harmful” side or “GMO is not harmful” side) is pro calling Almond drink “Almond milk” and soy juice, “Soy milk”, when it has nothing to do with mammary glands?

Zaku's avatar

@Caravanfan Since the argumentum is about your line “That statement is completely false.”, and large parts of the world seem to think there’s some cause for concern, no, you’re just continuing to troll.

Caravanfan's avatar

Ad hominem. The final argument for the truly desperate.

flo's avatar

@Zaku Why did you present the dog dressed as giant spider as evidence for your side?

Zaku's avatar

@flo I was trying to inject some humor and also hopefully jar @gorillapaws into seeing what I see as the silliness of the side-discussion about spider dogs. I suppose it will only land with people who already share my understanding, but ideas evoked by the spider dog images include:

1. No, it’s really not a thing that selective breeding will get spider DNA into a dog as @gorillapaws suggested.

2. Injecting arachnid DNA into animals is pretty bizarre.

3. Genetic engineers really have no way of knowing the full consequences of performing DNA manipulation that would never occur in nature, and then releasing those modified organisms into the wild. While it’s unlikely to make spider-dog monsters, it might do things like mess up the DNA of most natural wheat crops on Earth, or have other side-effects that lead to unforeseeable other disasters.

4. And again, it is gross disinformation (i.e. lying or ignorance) to keep suggesting that GMOs are equivalent to selective breeding.

flo's avatar

@Zaku Since not everyone knows everyone’s sense of humor, how about using a sarcasm emoji or something.

Zaku's avatar

@flo I’ll consider it in future.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Zaku “it’s really not a thing that selective breeding will get spider DNA into a dog”

It’s a thought experiment. It IS possible (just not practical). If you look at the entire genetic soup out there that occurred via natural selection, It’s perfectly possible to selectively breed a black widowdoodle, given enough time and resources—ultimately you’re just trying to get the right combination of ATCG’s. Gene splicing doesn’t allow us to do anything new, it just allows us to do things much more quickly.

Zaku's avatar

@gorillapaws It seems to me… that more theoretical thought experiments that tend to seem (to those who don’t understand the math, so most people) like positive arguments for the GMO industry really really aren’t needed.

Did I mention already that the chances remind me of the effectiveness of getting someone killed by waiting for meteor to land on them?

Coordinates for meteor impact are just a matter of numbers, and the odds may actually be better.

My money is on all the spiders and pigs and humans all dying off because of the disastrous side-effects of profit-oriented industrial thinking and lack of wisdom, before we get a spider pig, probably even if we use GMO means. But certainly before we get one from random mutation and/or selective breeding, even if the ambient radiation goes way up.

LadyMarissa's avatar

^ Thanks for the info!!! I can honestly say that I’m NOT an opponent of GMO, but I’m also NOT a proponent either. I have an open mind that needed more info in order to better determine exactly what it is that I feel. What better place to learn than at one of the most diversified sites on the net??? Fluther has some very passionate people who stand up for what they believe with very few standing in the middle of the road.I had started my own research but was growing more confused by the page of info. So, here I am continuing to learn!!!

flo's avatar

@Caravanfan That could be directly from investors of GMO people.

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