GMOs: The What, The How, The Why

GMO Field Trip: Let’s Follow the Life of a GMO

The second in the blog series GMOs: What’s the Big Deal? by Oh Baby Foods Mother & Founder, Fran B. Free

In continuing with our blog series on GMOs, I aim to gather insight into the little acronym and why it evokes strong feelings (of something) for just about everyone. Again, some believe GMOs are harmless and necessary, others believe they are unsafe, unproven, and find the act of messing with DNA terrifying.

In last week’s post, I explained the reasons that Oh Baby Foods products do not contain GMO’s, and why I do not personally support them. I’m here again this week, and this time to run through the basics of what, how, why GMO’s exist.

The What

A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal.

“But wait,” you say. “My grandpa used to save seed from his favorite garden plants and then cross breed them to make his tomatoes more drought resistant or less susceptible to fungus. So, this GMO thing has been around for a while?”

No, it hasn’t. This is completely different from conventional breeding that we humans have been doing for thousands of years. This GMO thing only begun in 1996. We’re not only talking about joining DNA of two different species, we’re talking about joining DNA from different kingdoms. These are two beings that would never ever join or reproduce in nature. Ever.

The How

So, how would one go about joining two beings from different kingdoms…such as a fish and a tomato? (Side note: just to keep you on the edge of your seat, we’ll closely follow one example in detail during our last blog post this month.)

Now, put on your scientist coat and your chef hat. There are basically three ingredients to any GMO recipe: (1) the gene with desirable traits (to be transferred), (2) the organism to put the gene into (target species), and (3) a vector to carry the gene into the target species’ cells.

Once you isolate and gather up those three ingredients, you’re ready to introduce them following these steps:

–  Make several copies of your isolated gene
–  Transfer the desired genes to the plant’s own genes {You’ve got three options for insertion (or transformation): (1) use a ‘gene canon’, (2) a soil bacteria, or (3) a material called protoplast.}
– Create a new plant from the genetically modified plant tissue
– Check that the inserted genes function as expected
– Check that the inserted gene appears in the plant’s progeny (seeds)

And that’s it. Simple. You’ve just created a brand new being. Congrats! We’ll learn how to get it approved for use via our part 4 blog post in this series GMOs: Political Landscape.

The Why:

The following is from Anastasia Bondar’s blog series entitled “The Promise of GMOs.” I highly recommend reading through this to learn her opinion on which of the promises have been delivered and which ones have not. She recites the following excerpt from the BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) report, Healing, Fueling, Feeding: How Biotechnology Is Enriching Your Life:

Biotech (GMO) improves crop insect resistance, enhances crop herbicide tolerance and facilitates the use of more environmentally sustainable farming practices. Biotech is helping to feed the world by:

  • Generating higher crop yields with fewer inputs;
  • Lowering volumes of agricultural chemicals required by crops-limiting the run-off of these products into the environment;
  • Using biotech crops that need fewer applications of pesticides and that allow farmers to reduce tilling farmland;
  • Developing crops with enhanced nutrition profiles that solve vitamin and nutrient deficiencies;
  • Producing foods free of allergens and toxins such as mycotoxin; and
  • Improving food and crop oil content to help improve cardiovascular health.

Those are some big promises from a very young technology. Again, read through Anastasia’s blog to see how GMOs have delivered.

Topics for GMOs: What’s the Big Deal? blog series, every Friday this October:
Friday, 10/3/2018      GMOs: It’s Personal
Friday, 10/10/2018    GMOs: The What, the How, the Why
Friday, 10/17/2018     GMOs: Environmental & Health Concerns
Friday, 10/24/2018    GMOs: Political Landscape
Friday, 10/31/2018    GMO Field Trip: Let’s follow the life of a GMO

GMO Education. (n.d.). Retrieved October 8, 2014.

Diaz, J., & Fridovich-Keil, J. (n.d.). Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). Retrieved October 8, 2014, from

How are GMOs Made? (n.d.). Retrieved October 8, 2014, from
How is it done? (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2014, from
Bodner, A. (2014, February 17). The Promise of GMOs. Retrieved October 9, 2014, from
Healing, Fueling, Feeding: How Biotechnology Is Enriching Your Life. (n.d.). Bio Technology Industry Organization.

About the Author

Theresa Spencer

Social Media Manager for Oh Baby Foods. Owner & blogger at Jacqueline is a member of the Arkansas Women Bloggers & Northwest Arkansas Bloggers. She is a graduate of the University of the Ozarks & now lives in Fayetteville, AR with her husband Spencer, her daughter Katie & son Jackson.

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