What are GMOs?

Page - September 8, 2010
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are products of genetic engineering (GE) in which certain traits of one organism are randomly inserted into another organism’s genes in a way that can never happen naturally.

An example is manipulating the DNA of an ordinary corn plant with genes of bacteria to produce corn with built-in pesticide. The resulting plant would never occur in the natural world because species never breed with unrelated species.

What’s wrong with GMOs?

The iconic Philippine rice Terraces, a UNESCO Living Cultural Heritage site, was declared a genetically-modified organism(GMO) free zone. Greenpeace volunteers together with local guides unfurled a giant banner with the words "GMO-FREE ZONE" at the site. © Greenpeace / Levi Nayahangan

Manipulating the genes of organisms is an inherently risky process. Anyrice is life  change to the DNA of an organism at any point may well have side effects that are impossible to predict. Once planted or released into the environment, GMOs are uncontrollable and can spread through nature and interbreed with naturally-occurring organisms, thereby contaminating pristine ‘GMO-free’ environments.

GMOs create 'genetic pollution' and are a major threat because GMOs cannot be recalled once released into the environment. On top of that, these ‘unnatural organisms’ also threaten farmers’ livelihoods. Because GMOs are patented, they are owned and controlled solely by multinational corporations, and farmers can be prosecuted if they save these seeds for replanting.


GMO rice: a threat to every Filipino

Greenpeace Activists wave post-harvest rice stalks at the Philippine Department of Agriculture in Manila,to remind the government to keep the country's rice supply free of risky contamination from genetically-modified (GMO) varieties. © Greenpeace / Luis Liwanag

The Philippines is known as a centre of origin and biodiversity of rice and rice is the Filipino’s most important food. But very few Filipinos are aware that  GMO-tainted rice is already in our supermarkets, and that we may be eating GMO rice sooner than we think—whether we like it or not.

At present, no country has approved GMO rice except the US where it is still not commercially grown. But last year, several strains of GMO rice still unapproved for human consumption were found to have already tainted rice and rice products around the world. This created major outrage, prompting rice dealers and importers in Europe and Asia to reject GMO rice imports and commit to GMO-free production and importation.


Will GMOs solve food security?

A Greenpeace activists at the entrance of the National Food Authority head office. © Greenpeace / Luis Liwanag

Giant agri-biotech companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, and Bayer, who are primarily responsible for propagating GMOs, say that genetic-engineering is the answer to world hunger and food security.

This is not true. Food security—the ability of a community to feed itself consistently on a diverse diet—is a complex problem that will not be solved overnight: it depends on people having access to land and money. GMOs provide neither.

In fact, GMO technology, and the industrial system it maintains, increases dependence on expensive farm chemicals and on companies that supply both the seed and the chemical technology.


Say no to GMOs!

Farmers, agriculture and goverment officials uproot a plantation of genetically engineered BT Corn and demand for a GMO free Mindoro. © Greenpeace / Jose Enrique Soriano

It threatens biodiversity, posing an unnecessary risk to the environment.

It has never been proven safe for human consumption and poses unacceptable risks to health.

It leads to further degradation of the soil and poisoning our environment.

It will result to the loss of the farmer's rights to save seed, which has been the basis of food security since farming began.

It causes biopiracy in terms of acquiring genes from plants, animals and bacteria that is found in poorer countries where most of the world's biodiversity is to be found.