Q: As a Master Gardener, I’m disheartened your article on pest control is promoting GMO plants as a means of pest control for home gardens.
A: As a former instructor of Master Gardeners, I am disheartened that you are confused about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Sometimes, people argue about a controversial topic without knowing the definitions of the words they are using. Sometimes, they are confused by the acronyms.
For instance, let’s look at the acronyms and terms “GEO” and “GMO.” “GEO” is short for genetically engineered organism, and “GMO” is short for genetically modified organism. These two terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably—but they are not the same thing.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines genetic modification as: “The production of heritable improvements in plants or animals for specific uses, via either genetic engineering or other more traditional methods. Some countries other than the United States use this term to refer specifically to genetic engineering.”
The USDA defines genetic engineering as: “Manipulation of an organism’s genes by introducing, eliminating or rearranging specific genes using the methods of modern molecular biology, particularly those techniques referred to as recombinant DNA techniques.”
In the genetic modification definition, the modification can be either genetic engineering or “more traditional methods.” Traditional methods include plain old plant breeding that has taken place for thousands of years! The USDA is correct in stating that genetic engineering is a type of genetic modification. According to the USDA definition, all garden seeds and plants created by traditional plant breeding are genetically modified.
Throughout all of history, all organisms, except for naturally occurring clones, have been and always will be GMOs. Even identical twins are GMOs of their parents.
At the present time, there are no genetically engineered seeds available to home gardeners. Every seed packet, including all heirloom and organic packets, always contains GMO seeds, even if the label says they aren’t.
Just look at the USDA definition and you will see that all garden seeds fit their GMO definition. All garden seeds are genetically modified seeds. We love genetically modified plants. That is how we get new, hardier, and more disease-resistant varieties of food and landscape crops.
Do not be afraid of genetically modified plants and animals, because every plant and animal throughout all of history has been a GMO.
Every food plant in your garden and plant in your landscape is genetically modified. We are always on the lookout for new genetically modified plants and animals. We want to find the improved characteristics of more production, better quality, and better disease resistance, and we want to stop using plants and animals that we believe are not improved. Plant and animal breeders are constantly improving our landscapes with prettier flowers, our pets with improved animal genes, and our gardens with new hybrids, such as mildew-resistant zucchini. Genetic modification is normal, natural, constantly occurring, and nothing to be upset about at all.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Creators.com. Copyright 2021 Jeff Rugg. Distributed by Creators Syndicate.