Be Sure to Know Your GMOs

There has been a lot of news lately on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but what exactly are GMOs?

The USDA defines genetic modification as the “production of heritable improvements in plants or animals for specific uses.” In short, genetic engineering transfers specific traits, or genes, from one organism into another.

How extensive are GMOs in farming? Soybeans provide a good example. In 1997, herbicide-tolerant soybeans were planted on 17 percent of acreage. That figure has jumped to 94 percent in 2015.

The potato industry is following suit. J.R. Simplot hopes to have a variety resistant to the Irish potato famine pathogen ready for commercial production by 2017.

Many wonder, with such explosive growth what is the government doing to ensure these crops are safe?

Genetically modified crops fall under the offices of the USDA, EPA and FDA. These agencies have shared responsibility to make sure crops are safe. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service tests to make sure GMO crops do not pose a “plant pest risk” to the environment through field trials and certification programs. The EPA’s Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division checks to make sure that pesticide resistant plants are tested and fall within tolerance limits. The FDA then tests the food or feed to make sure it is safe for human and animal consumption.

The state of Idaho also places restrictions on GMO crops entering the state. The Idaho Department of Agriculture maintains a database of USDA-approved GMO crops that have entered the state. The law requires that people wishing to bring GMO crops into the state to first obtain a permit.

Botton line, Idaho farmers are using GMOs to compete in today’s market. Check the law and obtain a permit before bringing new GMOs into the state.