by Stephanie Wuebben, Agriscience Education major
You remember those fictional math questions about square watermelons? Well they are fiction no more. A square watermelon seems very odd since we are used to their general oval structure. Many people think the only way to get such a product is to alter the DNA sequence of the watermelon itself. However; these watermelons are not a product of genetic engineering, they are simply just grown in boxes to give them their rectangular shape.
GMO Free Oats
Since some oats are marketed GMO free, there must be oats that are genetically engineered, right? Wrong. There is actually no alternative to traditional oats. Producers like to slap that “GMO free” label on products because some consumers are willing to pay a higher price for a product that hasn’t been genetically altered. Just because a product is labeled “GMO free” doesn’t mean that there is another version of that product that is classified as a GMO.
Labeling a product as a “GMO” isn’t required, instead many companies have printed a “quick response” code on their products so consumers can learn more. Here they can read if the product is genetically altered, but the company isn’t required to tell consumers how or why that product has been altered. Simply throwing the “genetically modified” label on products could send consumers into a frenzy, this code system could prevent that.
Why alter the genes?
In some instances, crops are genetically modified to improve crop production (efficiency). The Hawaiian papaya has been genetically modified to protect it against a harmful virus that threatened the fruit. In other cases, the crop has been altered to armor it against herbicides sprayed on fields to kill weeds. The soy lecithin found in ice cream comes from soybeans that were genetically modified to be resistant to herbicides. This protects the soybeans from the effects of herbicides and ends the life cycle of weeds that potentially would consume the vital nutrients in the soil that soybeans need to flourish.
Read here to find out about other GMO misconceptions:
How Square Watermelons Get Their Shape, and Other G.M.O. Misconceptions
This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.