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Issue Overview: GMOs and engineered

By Bloomberg, adapted by Newsela staff on 09.06.16
Word Count 432
Level 560L

TOP: A biotech lab produces GMO rice in the Philippines. Photo by David Greedy. MIDDLE: Courtesy of Center for Food
Safety. BOTTOM: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.

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Glowing plants. Mosquitos

that self-destruct. Fast-growing fish called Frankenfish. Genetic engineering can be strange.
Yet genetically modified living things are very common.

GMOs stands for genetically modified organisms. They are plants or animals that have had
their genes altered with DNA from other living things. Genes are made of DNA, the building
block of life. Changing their DNA makes them different.

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GMOs make farmers more productive. They also let farmers use fewer chemicals like
insecticides. Almost all corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the U.S. is engineered. GMOs are
found in most of America's processed foods.

Most scientists think that GMO foods are not dangerous. But only 28 countries plant
genetically engineered crops. Today, people are fighting over the future of GMOs. The latest
battle is about labeling the GMO food.

The Situation

In July, President Barack Obama signed a new law. The law says GMOs have to be reported
on food packages. Food sellers have two choices. They can write on the food package that a
food has GMOs. Or they can print a code with this information. Only smartphones can read
the code. Some people say this is unfair. Not everyone has a smartphone.

More than 60 countries have labeling laws. These include Japan, Brazil and China. The
biggest makers of GMOs also sell most of the world's seeds. One of these big companies is
Monsanto. It sells about 1 out of 4 of the world's seeds.

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The Background

People have been experimenting with crops for thousands of years. In the 1900s, some
people put chemicals on crops. This made the crops mutate. A mutation is a change in the
crop's genes. Changing their genes made the crops different. It gave some of them new
colors. Many crops grown today come from mutated crops.

The first GMO sold in stores was the FlavrSavr tomato. It did not taste very good, so it was
taken away.

In November, the first GMO meat was approved for sale in the U.S. It is a special type of fish.
It grows twice as fast as regular fish.

The Argument

Most scientists say that GMOs are not dangerous. They say GMOs have helped farmers. Now
farmers do not have to use as many insecticides. Farmers can grow crops more quickly.

But people are still nervous. They worry about eating GMOs.

In some cases, GMOs can cause problems. For example, Monsanto makes a GMO corn that
kills bugs. Many farmers grow this corn. But the bugs that eat the corn are becoming stronger.
Now farmers have to use more insecticides to kill them.

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