No combination of three letters can strike fear into the heart of a health-loving hippie as much as "GMO". I'll admit it, I used to be that person who would see a person eating corn and thinking, "Don't they know that almost all corn grown in the US is genetically modified?" However, after spending two weeks studying genome editing at the Harvard Pre-College Program, I can't say I have the same opinion. Now before you come running at me with flaming torches and pitchforks, let me explain.

Science is Science

Seem redundant? That's the point. All organisms are genetically modified in the same way: a double stranded break is made in the DNA, the selected traits are inserted, and then the cell is repaired through either non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) or homologous repair (HR). This break in the DNA is executed using one of the four genome editing technologies: Meganucleases, Zinc Finger Nucleases, TALE Nucleases, and CRISPR RNA-guided Nucleases. 

All of this scientific mumbo jumbo might go right over your head, but that's natural. The point I'm trying to make is that "genome editing" may sound terrifying and Dr. Frankenstein-ish, but it's just a science. The largest argument I hear against genome editing is that it's an "unnatural process". Well, of course it is. But without it, what would cure a man of HIV? What would help developing countries grow crops in less than ideal conditions?

But What About Monsanto?

For those of you who don't know, Monsanto is a company that has been under fire for its previously unethical practices, which includes creating Agent Orange. Agent Orange was the chemical sprayed all over forests during the Vietnam War in order to decrease the amount of foliage that provided enemy cover. Exposure to Agent Orange led to diseases, deforestation, and other horrendous side effects.

But not every company is Monsanto. In fact, even Monsanto is attempting to turn over a new leaf. The company was one of the few companies to grant free licenses for developing countries so they could have access to golden rice.

Golden rice is a crop that's genetically modified to include high levels of beta-carotene, which is a large source of vitamin A. The World Health Organization has reported that "Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections." If malnourished children have access to this crop, they have a much better chance at leading a healthy life.

So Is Non-GMO Hype Just A Big Brother, Capitalist Plot?

It's hard to say. This is just my opinion, but if you wanted to cancel out your competition, what better way than to fear monger? My family has spent loads more money on certified non-GMO products, purely because we heard "genetics" and "modification" and got freaked out. And it seems to have worked that way for others, too.

According to the Non-GMO Project, "Non-GMO Project Verified is the fastest growing label in the natural products industry, representing $19.2 billion in annual sales and more than 43,000 verified products for over 3,000 brands." It is evident that the Non-GMO Project, which is a non-profit organization, has been successful.

Even though they're a non-profit organization, the companies that choose/are able to go through the many steps to achieve verification are not, and thus profit off of a typical consumer's ill-informed nature. Smaller farms that don't have the time to achieve non-GMO verification, or are unable to grow non-GM crops in their environment, may be suffering.

The Negative Affect Anti-GMO Has on Farmers

Even though, yes, non-GM seed is cheaper than GM, they are more unwieldy. A blogger named The Foodie Farmer, who manages their own farm, reported "Even when there is a premium involved with growing a non-GM grain, due to better yields, GM has out-performed non-GM on our farm every year. We have experienced higher yields in all of our GM crops in the nearly 17 years we have been using the seeds."

So even though non-GM seed is less costly, the end quality of the crop is inferior to GM. This leads me to the question: why should farmers grow seeds that don't perform as well as the seeds being demonized by the media? It seems a little ridiculous.

Are There Benefits to GM Foods?

Yes. Aside from the fact that GMOs require less herbicide and pesticide use and cost less at the supermarket, some surprising information has popped up. This study revealed that, "...disease-resistant corn crops may have lower levels of mycotoxins, potentially carcinogenic compounds to humans. They result from fungal activity in insect-infested corn crops. With fewer insect holes in plant tissue, associated fungi are not able to invade and produce toxins." That means that GM corn may actually be healthier than non-GM corn. It is an utterly fascinating fact that I can't wait to be further researched.

Now, I'm not denying there are negative side effects to genetically modified crops (after all, superweeds exist). I'm just saying that there are multiple cold hard facts that prove GMOs aren't pure evil. Not every situation is completely black and white, which is why I ask you to reconsider your opinions, do some more research, and reevaluate why you put certain grocery items in your shopping cart.