Some facts about genetic modification

Stories about genetically-modified (GM) plants pop up in the news quite often. But exactly what is genetic modification? The following are some facts about genetically-modified organisms.
Genetic modification is a technique where individual genes can be copied and transferred to another living organism. It changes the genetic make-up by adding or removing specific characteristics.
GM crops are plants that genetically have been altered to improve resistance to diseases caused by insects or viruses, and to increase tolerance towards herbicides or extreme weather conditions.
One of the best known examples is GM soya, which is tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate. It allows for better weed control and fewer lost plants.
Supporters of GM technology say it will lower costs, increase yields, decrease the need for chemicals, and help to feed a hungry world.
Opponents, on the other hand, are concerned about the health risks and the threat to the environment. They say not enough studies have been done to prove it is safe and will not harm natural species.
The United States is the world leader in biotech crops, with gene-spliced varieties accounting for 75 percent of U.S. soybeans, 71 percent of cotton, and 34 percent of corn.
The European Union has not allowed the experimental or commercial growth of any new gene crops since October, 1998, by which stage 18 GM plant varieties had been approved, including maize, rapeseed, chicory, and soybeans.
As consumer fears grew in the late 1990s, EU states including Austria, France, Greece, Italy, and Luxembourg banned already-approved GM crops.
EU governments also restricted GM field trials and between 1998 and 2002, the number of GM crop trials dropped by nearly 90 percent.
The U.S., with Argentina and Canada, decided to challenge the de facto EU ban at the World Trade Organization. They said there was no scientific basis for the moratorium and that it was illegal.
Dates to remember
•Jan. 21—Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting, 7 p.m., Stratton

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