Feed the World – Rising to the Challenge with Biotechnology and GMOs

As farmers and ranchers work to meet the daunting challenge of feeding an exploding global population, they continue to grow more with less— less water, less land, less fertilizer and pesticides, and less impact on the environment.

Tools such as genetic management and selective breeding have been used for centuries to help accomplish these goals. Today, we’re just doing it better with genetically modified organisms, also called GMOs, sometimes referred to as biotechnology.

These modifications are made to introduce specific traits or characteristics that are not naturally present in the organism. GMOs have been developed for various purposes, such as increasing crop yield, improving resistance to pests or diseases and increasing nutritional content.

By editing the genetic material of organisms, GMO technology offers a powerful tool in tackling global challenges such as food scarcity and environmental sustainability.

Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about what GMOs are, how GMOs work and why they are an important tool for today’s corn farmers.

A man holds a handful of dirt in a cornfield.


GMO stands for genetically modified organism. It refers to any living organism, including plants and animals, whose genetic material has been altered using modern biotechnology techniques.

Genetic modification refers to human intervention to create a different genetic combination to create a desired outcome. Biotechnology allows researchers to create gene combinations that result in diversity and enhanced performance.

The focus of GMOs in agriculture is to help plants such as corn overcome stresses and challenges that keep them from achieving their full potential.

Bioengineered food, also known as genetically engineered or genetically modified food, refers to food products derived from organisms whose genetic material has been altered through biotechnology methods.

These changes involve the introduction of specific genes from one organism into another, resulting in desired traits or characteristics that may not naturally occur. This scientific approach allows for the enhancement of crop yield, increased resistance to pests or diseases, and improved nutritional content. The development of bioengineered food is driven by the goal of addressing global challenges such as food security and sustainability.

GMO crops are good because they are designed to grow healthier crops to be better equipped to maintain higher yields in spite of adverse conditions like droughts, weeds and insect pests.

Eliminating damage from pests keeps corn plants and other crops healthier and stronger and better able to withstand stresses like dry soil, because roots are healthier and can absorb more available moisture.

Reducing pressure from weeds means nutrients and water are more available to the corn, and farmers have to plow their fields less (or not at all). This helps keep soil and nutrients in place, which is a plus for sustainability.

Crops that are genetically modified go through significant approval processes, including reviews by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), FDA and EPA – and to date there is not a single documented case of a food allergy or human health situation due to crop biotechnology.

GMOs are also tested for many years and continually tested to ensure they are safe.

You can find more information about the safety of GMO crops through GMO Answers.

While much of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified, there are non-GMO varieties available.

While not all corn is GMO, even the varieties that have not undergone genetic engineering were created through selective breeding for specific traits. Just as livestock producers have always aimed to grow bigger, stronger and healthier cattle, sheep and goats, the world’s corn farmers have been trying to raise the best corn possible for thousands of years. Genetic engineering is a modern scientific tool to speed up a process that has been achieved naturally for generations through selective breeding of corn varieties.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have been on the market for several decades The beginnings of GMO technology can be traced back to the early 1970s with the development of recombinant DNA techniques, which allowed scientists to edit and transfer genetic material between different organisms.

The first genetically modified food available for purchase was a tomato, which first hit the store shelves in 1994.

One of the benefits of genetically modified crops is their potential to lower the cost of food through their ability to increase yields. By introducing traits that enhance resistance to pests, diseases or environmental stressors, GMOs can help farmers protect their crops and achieve higher productivity with less loss. Increased yields mean more abundant harvests, which can lead to a greater supply of food in the market. With a larger supply, the price of agricultural commodities can decrease, making food more affordable for consumers.

Additionally, GMOs can reduce post-harvest losses by  reducing waste and increasing overall efficiency in the food supply chain. These factors combined can contribute to lower production costs, which may be passed on to consumers in the form of lower food prices.