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What is a GMO?

“Science has found a way to take a desired trait, copy it and put it into another plant or another animal,” said Jane Andrews, Wegmans’ top nutritionist. “It’s something that wouldn’t happen in a normal evolutionary process.” The result is a genetically modified organism, or GMO.

• Insulin is one example: “Science produced a way of taking a bacteria to create the same kind of insulin you and I produce,” Andrews said, and uses this manufactured insulin to help diabetics.

• GMO in foods: These began popping up in the mid-1990s. “Roundup ready soy” was an early example. Monsanto had a patent on both the plant and the pesticide back then. The combination allowed soy farmers to use a milder, more effective pesticide than before, as well as reduce plowing. This meant using less diesel fuel and seeing less soil runoff. Crop yields grew, as did food options and price points for consumers. Today, 97 percent of all soy contains GMOs, as do almost all processed foods.

• How sweet it is: Cornstarch, high fructose corn syrup and sweeteners such as fructose and dextrose are generally made using GMOs.

The big five

The primary GMO sources in foods are these commodity crops, used to feed people and many of the animals they eat:

1. Soybeans: Used in processed foods, including many vegetarian varieties.

2. Corn: GMO corn is more insect and disease resistant and is used to make high fructose corn syrup used in cereals, juices, sodas and thousands of others foods, as well as auto fuel.

3. Sugar beets: This GMO-based product is used to make about 40 percent of the granulated sugar in the U.S.

4. Cotton: Used as a food source for dairy cows and other livestock; 90 percent of the U.S. crop is GMO.

5. Rapeseed: Used to make about 90 percent of the nation’s canola oil. Most soybean, corn and cottonseed oils, and sprays, also contain GMOs.