Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) - A Complete Guide

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) - A Complete Guide
External Guest Writer
June 8, 2021

Although GMOs have become a buzzword in the agricultural community in the recent past, the concept of genetic engineering has been around for numerous decades at this point. In fact, Biochemists Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen first ventured in genetic engineering as early as 1973.

Since that point, it took researchers less than a decade to develop the first GMO product in 1982. There are a lot of queries and misconceptions related to GMOs despite it being prevalent in society for several decades now, which is why this article aims to inform and educate readers about this topic.

What is GMO?

GMO or genetically modified organism is a plant, microorganism, animal, or any other living being whose genetic structure has been modified artificially in laboratories. This is done with the help of transgenic technology, genetic modification tools, plant biotechnology and agricultural biotechnology

The purpose is to create a combination of plant, animal, virus, and bacterial genes in order to strengthen certain facets of the plant/animal or to imbibe it with fresh capabilities.

As genetic modification is not a part of our natural cycles, it can have a wide range of effects on the consumer’s physiology. 

Examples of GMOs

There are many types of GMOs currently in circulation in markets around the world. We provide examples of GMOs based on their risk levels in the section below.

High-Risk GMOs

High-risk GMOs are potentially extremely toxic to the human body, and in many cases, to plants and animals as well. The input here is either derived from or is produced through a process that involves organisms that are genetically modified and commercially available.

Examples of high-risk GMOs include:

  • Alfalfa
  • Potato
  • Canola
  • Animal products
  • Corn
  • Yellow summer squash
  • Sugar beet
  • Soy
  • Papaya
  • Cotton

Low Risk GMOs

In the case of low risk GMOs, the input is not derived from processes involving organisms that are genetically modified, nor do they contain any derivatives of such organisms. These foods are relatively safer to consume and are not known to cause any harm to the human body.

Examples of low risk GMO include:

  • Spinach
  • Lentils
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • Sesame seeds

Monitored Risk GMO

Monitored Risk GMOs are those foods that are actively monitored by the Non-GMO project. This involves tracking over 100 products that have been recently genetically engineered. Such products are being actively studied as they are becoming widespread around the world and they are known to contain instances of GMOs.

Examples of such GMOs include:

  • Flax
  • Mustard
  • Rice
  • Wheat
  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Pineapple
  • Tomato
  • Sugarcane
  • Camelina

The Pros and Cons of GMO


  • Lower price point offered to customers
  • Lower cost of production for farmers
  • Increased durability and nutritional value
  • Higher resistance by crops towards diseases
  • GMO foods are known to be tastier
  • Can help to increase the supply of food while keeping the costs relatively low


  • GMO contains toxic substances derived from the use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers
  • They are known to cause adverse physiological reactions to consumers, and this ranges from allergic reactions to cancer in some instances
  • Growing GMO crops is not an environmentally friendly option
  • They contain growth hormones that can be harmful to consumers

Genetically Modified Organism vs. Organic: What is the Difference?

There are several major differences between GMO and organic foods. We discuss these below:

  • Pesticides and chemicals: Organic foods are not supposed to contain any harmful toxins or chemicals as they do not use any artificial pesticides, insecticides, or herbicides. GMOs on the other hand are actively modified to contain artificial toxins
  • Price: GMOs are far more inexpensive than organic foods. This is why organic produce is hard to procure as well, as the profit margins are fairly low in this segment
  • Durability: GMOs are far more durable than organic foods that tend to spoil fairly quickly
  • Nutrition: Organic foods contain natural levels of nutrition while GMOs are modified to boost their nutritional values

Look Before You Leap

GMOs are quickly invading market places around the world and it has become hard to avoid consuming them altogether. This is why it is important to understand the differences between good and bad GMO foods and make informed decisions the next time we go shopping.