Test Your GMO Knowledge

by Melissa Diane Smith

Quiz yourself with these eleven True-False questions.

Many of us have heard the term, GMOs. But how much do you really know about them, their health risks, and how to avoid them? There’s no better time than now, National Non-GMO Month, to find out. Take our quiz and test your knowledge, then pass the test onto others to raise awareness about this timely topic.

  1. True or False: An easy way to remember the five major genetically modified crops in our food supply is to remember that they all begin with the letter “c”.
  2. True or False: The two main traits given to foods that are genetically modified are to produce their own insectide or to be resistant to herbicides that kill other plants.
  3. True or False: The terms “genetically modified” and “genetically engineered” mean different things.
  4. True or False: In the genetic modification process, biotech scientists often use viruses and bacteria to invade cells of plants and insert foreign genes.
  5. True or False: The only sweeteners likely to contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the market are those made from corn – i.e., corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, and fructose.
  6. True or False: No cases of illness have ever been reported by people who have eaten foods that have been genetically modified or ingested products in which genetically modified organisms were used.
  7. True or False: One of the main corporations involved in making and patenting genetically modified seeds is a top chemical company that manufactured the chemicals Agent Orange and DDT.
  8. True or False: Polls conducted by the three major TV networks show that the majority of Americans want genetically modified foods to be labeled.
  9. True or False: Animal studies indicate that there are only two health risks associated with eating GM foods: infertility and reproductive problems.
  10. True or False: Genetically modified E. coli bacteria is used in the production of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which is injected into some cows to boost milk production.
  11. True or False: One way to identify GM produce in the grocery store is to look for a label on the produce item with a 5-digit PLU code starting with the number 8.


Answers to the Quiz:

  1. False. Three of the five – corn, canola, and cottonseed – begin with the letter “c”. The other two begin with “s”. They are soy and sugar from sugar beets.
  2. True. The five most common genetically modified foods are genetically modified to either produce their own insectide or to tolerate herbicides that kill other plants – or both.
  3. False. “Genetically modified” and “genetically engineered” mean the same thing – altering genes or inserting genes from one organism into another – and the two terms are used interchangeably.
  4. True. Viruses and bacteria have the ability to invade cells, so one of the key ways biotech scientists overcome the natural barriers that genes have against genetic material from another species is by using some type of bacteria or virus that is carrying foreign genetic material to penetrate the host cell.
  5. False. Sweeteners made from corn, more than 80 percent of which is genetically modified, are likely to contain GMOs. But so is sugar, which is usually a combination of sugar from sugar cane and sugar from GM sugar beets. Also, the artificial sweetener aspartame, found in Nutrasweet and Equal, is a genetically modified product.
  6. False. In 2000, reports came in to environmental groups and the Food and Drug Administration from people who said they got sick or suffered severe allergic reactions after eating taco shells made from a type of genetically modified corn called StarLink that was not approved for human consumption; that was before nationwide recalls of the products were issued. In 1989, more than a thousand people became ill or disabled and about 100 Americans died after taking L-trytophan supplements from one company that used genetically engineered bacteria in the production of the product. According to some American Academy of Environmental Medicine physicians, patients are probably seeing negative health effects right now from genetically modified (GM) foods but they or their doctors don’t realize that GM foods may be contributing to those health conditions.
  7. True. Monsanto, the biggest seller of GM crop seeds in the world, is a top chemical company that manfuctured DDT and Agent Orange. It is the producer of the leading weed-killer Roundup and most of the GM seeds the corporation produces are genetically engineered to be “Roundup Ready” – in other words, to withstand applications of Roundup that kills other plants.
  8. True.  A 2001 ABC News poll found that 93 percent of people think the government should require mandatory labeling of GM foods. Earlier this year, a  CBS/New York Times blog poll found that 83 percent of US consumers are bothered by the presence of GMOs in food and 89 percent want GM foods labeled. A 2011 MSNBC poll found that 96% want GM foods labeled.
  9. False. Based on animal research, infertility and reproductive problems are two serious health risks associated with eating GM foods, but there are many others. According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, they include immune system problems, accelerated aging, disruption of insulin and cholesterol regulation, gastrointestinal problems, and organ damage.
  10. True. The United States is the one of only a few nations that allow the use of GM recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in dairy cattle. However, in recent years, consumer reaction and concerns in the U.S. have prompted Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and many dairies to either not use or to stop using rBGH. Some dairies still do, though. To avoid it, look for milk products labeled USDA Organic or rBGH-free or rBST-free.
  11. False. That’s an urban legend that’s circulated far and wide, but it’s a misconception. Looking for a 5-digit PLU code that starts with 8 isn’t helpful for identifying GM produce items because many companies don’t want consumers to know which foods are GMO, so no company uses a number starting with 8, says leading non-GMO advocate Jeffrey Smith. To steer clear of GM produce, know that the only fruits and vegetables at this point that may be genetically modified are papaya (from Hawaii only), some zucchini and yellow squash, and some corn on the cob. Avoid these produce items or seek out organic forms or those that boast a non-GMO sign.

Need more information about genetically modified foods? Read “What You Need to Know about GMOs, Hidden in Everyday Foods.”

**Policy for reprinting this article: Websites and blogs that are not for profit may reprint this article in its entirety with my Melissa Diane Smith byline and by saying this article is courtesy of Against the Grain Nutrition News & Notes, with a link back to this original article. Magazines, newspapers, and other for-profit sources of media — and not-for-profit organizations that want to reprint just part of this article — must request written permission by sending a request to email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Copyright © 2011 Melissa Diane Smith


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