The most common genetically modified microgreen is alfalfa. You can avoid genetically modified microgreens by buying organic seeds or products, or by avoiding microgreens off the list of crops that are genetically modified.
Do you love microgreens, but you’re concerned about the safety of genetic modification? Read on to learn all about genetic modification and microgreens!
What is genetic modification?
Genetic modification is when scientists alter the genetic makeup of a plant or animal.
Genetic modification has been done for thousands of years indirectly through selective breeding.
Modern biotechnology has made it possible to target specific genes for a more precise modification of the plant.
What is the history of genetic modification?
Humans have been genetically modifying plants since ancient times via selective breeding, according to Gabriel Rangel who works at Harvard University. When you repeat selective breeding over multiple generations, you can make dramatic changes in a plant.
Dogs are the first animals who were genetically modified on purpose, starting 32,000 years ago. Wolves joined hunter-gatherers in East Asia. For thousands of years people bred dogs to bring out certain physical and personality traits, which is what we see in dogs today.
It is believed that wheat is the first genetically modified plant. Around 9000 B.C. farmers bred wheat grasses to produce hardier seeds and larger grains.
What are the four methods of genetic modification?
According to The Ohio State University, there are four main methods to genetically modify crops.
- Selective breeding: Two plant strains are bred together. This can affect tens or hundreds of thousands of genes. This is the oldest method and these foods aren’t typically considered to be GMO today.
- Mutagenesis: Plant seeds are exposed to radiation or chemicals in order to mutate the plant. The offspring that have the desired traits are bred further. This is also not usually considered a GMO strategy.
- RNA interference: Individual genes that are undesirable are inactivated to remove them.
- Transgenics: A gene is transferred from one species into another to introduce a new, desirable trait.
The last two methods are what are typically considered genetic modification methods by the general public.
Why are plants genetically modified?
Farmers worry about a lot of things when they’re choosing and planting their seeds- specifically the weather, weeds, and insects. Genetically modified crops can mitigate these problems by being selectively bred against them.
Other genetically modified plants enhance nutrition and are meant to nourish underserved communities.
When genetically modified crops repel insects, it lowers the need for pesticides. Other crops are modified to be resistant to some herbicides which makes weed control easier.
Farmers and agricultural companies get the most benefit out of genetically modified products. They don’t have any effects on consumers, but they have secondary benefits such as less pesticide use, less soil erosion, and lower costs.
Am I eating genetically modified foods regularly?
It is highly likely that you regularly eat food products that are made with genetically modified crops. Things such as sugar, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, corn syrup, and cornstarch can all be made of genetically modified ingredients.
According to the new National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, you will likely start seeing labels on some food stating that they are bioengineered.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a list of all the bioengineered foods that are available in the world.
Although only a few crops are genetically modified, the two main crops include soybeans and corn. These two crops make up much of our diet of processed food, so if you eat processed food, you are likely consuming genetically modified crops regularly.
Which crops are genetically modified?
Only a few kinds of genetically modified crops are grown in the U.S., but some of them make up a large percentage of the crop that is grown.
According to the USDA, out of all the crop grown in 2018:
- Soybeans were 94% genetically modified.
- Cotton was 94% genetically modified.
- Corn was 92% genetically modified.
The FDA says that the 10 genetically modified crops in the U.S. include:
- Summer squash
- Sugar beets
Can organic food be genetically modified?
Organic food can not be genetically modified in any way. Organic farmers can’t use genetically modified seeds, organic meat can’t eat genetically modified crops, and organic products can’t contain any genetically modified ingredients.
To meet the organic regulations set by the USDA, farmers and food processors have to prove that they aren’t using GMO seeds, as well as prove that their products don’t come in contact with any genetically modified ingredients.
Organic farms put in place preventative practices based on their risk factors, such as if they have a conventional farm neighboring them. An example of this is if a farmer plants their seeds earlier or later than usual to avoid organic and modified crops flowering simultaneously, which can create cross-pollination.
Which microgreens are genetically modified?
If you eat corn, soybean, cotton, potato, papaya, summer squash, canola, alfalfa, apple, or sugar beet microgreens, there is a chance that they are genetically modified.
The most common microgreens out of this group are alfalfa microgreens.
Alfalfa microgreens lower cholesterol, which helps reduce the risk of cancers and cardiovascular disease. They can also help regular blood sugar and are a great source of vitamin K, C, and A.
Are genetically modified microgreens bad for you?
There are a lot of genetically modified food products in the U.S. food supply. Products are constantly being approved for new uses, such as in medicines.
The safety of genetically modified foods has always been debated because it is a science that people don’t understand, and when people don’t understand something, they’re often afraid of it.
According to the University of Connecticut, over half of adults think that genetically modified foods are unsafe.
However, science continues to prove that genetically modified foods are completely safe to consume.
How can I avoid genetically modified microgreens?
If you want to avoid genetically modified microgreens, buy organic seeds if you’re growing them yourself or only buy organic microgreens from the store. Organic products can’t be genetically modified.
Another way to avoid genetically modified microgreens is to avoid eating microgreens off of the list of genetically modified crops, especially alfalfa.
Hi, I’m John Stephens, chief editor and writer for Totalgardener.com. I’ve been gardening and raising animals for over 15 years starting with a small backyard plot in Northern Virginia where I grew corn, potatoes, squash, and using a high mulch technique called the Ruth Stout Method. I also raised ducks and small mammals for meat and eggs in a movable pen similar to the ones used by Joel Salatin. I later moved to Colorado where I experimented with growing greens using aquaponics inside. I eventually added a microgreens setup and home sprouting operation. I’m excited to share everything I’ve learned plus more from the other local gardening and animal raising experts I know.