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REGARDING

GMOs WRIT TEN BY BRETT GL I CK

S

ince the dawn of agriculture when people settled down to an agrarian lifestyle, plants have been selectively bred for human use. Up until the 1950s, this was done by storing the seeds from the best plants and using them in the next growing season. As the understanding of genetics advanced, people were able to apply systematic breeding approaches that resulted in plants that were much healthier, produced greater yields, and fit the modern style of agriculture. Many of the modern agricultural crops that are common today developed into their current forms by the 1970s. Improvements to plant genetics continued gradually into the 1990s when scientists and breeders made efforts to further adapt plants to human needs and developed ways to insert traits into the DNA of those plants or eliminate unwanted traits. This was done by inserting parts of DNA found elsewhere in nature into a plant’s DNA, or deactivating a portion of a plant’s DNA. The plants with changed DNA are commonly referred to as GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms. The pursuit of specific traits is the reason GMOs were created. The traits are aimed at protecting the plant from stress-causing elements in nature or improving the product of the plant. Many GMO plants are developed to be resistant to certain diseases or insects, and by inserting genes from other organisms in nature, GMO plants are able to protect themselves. Certain plants naturally exhibit the ability to conserve water and tolerate a drought. When plants that can do this are identified, the genes that enabled it are found and transferred into a plant used in commercial agriculture. In other instances, GMO plants are developed to tolerate specific herbicides, thus allowing farmers to spray a field with that herbicide to kill weeds while not affecting the crop. This lowers the volume of herbicides used which helps farmers develop better environmental production practices. All of these traits help the plant to be stronger and more productive. There are also a number of traits that improve how we are able to utilize the product of the plants. Some GMO soybeans, when harvested, produce an oil with many of the healthy attributes of olive oil. Also, in an effort to reduce food waste, there are GMO potatoes and apples that do not superficially brown or bruise. The thought is that less food will be discarded with discoloration. To improve how much biofuel can be produced with corn, some GMO

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corn has been created to aid in the Whether your process of converting it into fuel. Currently there are nine crop distillery chooses plants that have been genetically modified and are commercially to use organic, available. They include soybeans, conventional, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, potatoes, squash or GMO grain and corn. There has been genetic modification performed on other to produce your crops, such as wheat, but in those instances the crops are not spirits, there are commercially available. Research may be ongoing, or it has been options to obtain determined there is not a ready market for that GMO plant. high quality Concern over effects of GMO products has caused some to grain of any type oppose them. When GMO plants you prefer. are produced in the vicinity of wild variations of the same plant, cross pollination can happen. This results in GMO traits being present in wild populations where it often proliferates. Once traits are in the wild it is not possible to remove them. This permanent contamination of wild population does not allow breeders to return to the original seed bank to obtain genetics unaltered by humans. The process of creating a new GMO crop requires significant investment of time, knowledge and money. This has resulted in only large corporations having the ability to bring new GMO crops to market. Due to the benefits of GMO crops, the vast majority of the genetics they use are from one of these large corporations which has caused a bottleneck of genetics being planted. Some worry that with less variability in genetics a new strain of bacteria, virus, or other diseases could cause an oversized effect on the supply of food. Many people find the small number of corporations developing the majority of genetics worrying due to the corporations being responsible to their shareholders first and not the public well being. In the process of adding a beneficial trait to a plant’s DNA, part of that plants DNA is swapped out. It is not possible to know exactly what function that part of the plant’s DNA preformed. A trait detrimental to the plant may have been removed, or it could have been one that was beneficial. It is also very possible that the DNA removed did not play any sort of a meaningful role in the plant’s life or its final product. For these reasons, some people favor labels for products that utilize GMO technology. Currently there are organizations that help producers verify that they do not use any GMO crops. Once that

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Artisan Spirit: Spring 2018  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.

Artisan Spirit: Spring 2018  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.