You might have heard of GMOs a lot lately. It seems they’re everywhere, and everyone has their own opinion. Our food has grown into a complex, scientific business. As people start to learn more about what’s in their food it changes the national conversation. We want healthy, safe food for our families and the first step towards that is education. Here is a brief rundown on GMOs so you can form your own opinion.

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. It’s a fairly new science and one that is filling our grocery store shelves. Genetically modified foods come from GMOs. Genetically modified organisms have had deliberate changes to their DNA through genetic engineering techniques. Some examples of genetically modified foods include soybeans, corn and rice. In the lab genetic engineers might use cisgenesis, which is when genes are artificially transferred between organisms. Or they could use transgenesis to insert genes from a different species.

Why would people want genetically modify foods? Well the first food to ever be genetically modified was a tomato in 1994. Its genes were modified so it would ripen without softening. People loved the idea of a tomato with a longer shelf life and were more than willing to buy them. Some soybeans, corn and cotton are modified so they won’t be resistant to herbicide. In 2013 Golden Rice will be introduced to the market, it’s been modified to be a source of vitamin A. Some people support GM foods because they have the potential to solve world hunger. GM foods can potentially be grown faster than organic food.

Why wouldn’t people want genetically modified foods? In countries suffering from poverty and hunger issues people don’t support the idea of being forced to use GM seeds. They want the same options as other countries in how they farm. Some scientists have published studies that show GM foods really don’t produce a higher yield. GMO farming has increased to the point that 10% of the WORLD’S crops are genetically modified. This limits the choices people have. If every item the grocery store is genetically modified then we are forced to buy them, whether we are comfortable with the idea or not. Most GMO foods are not labeled as such, leaving people uneducated about the food they eat. America’s three major food agencies: the FDA, the USDA and the EPA haven’t created new laws for regulating GMO food, despite it being a growing industry. In Europe and other places GM food is required to be separated from non-GM food and needs to be labeled. Many people are uncomfortable with the fact that multi-billion corporations, such as Monsanto are the ones producing the GM seeds and saturating the market with them. They feel that large biotech seed producers have taken over the farming system and are forcing small farmers to buy GM seeds through spikes in prices and buying independent seed companies.

There are always many ways to look at controversies. While GM crops have the potential to have a higher yield, they also have led to weeds that are resistant to herbicides. The more weeds are resistant to engineered plants, the more chemicals have to be added to herbicides.

Cross-pollination between GM crops and non-modified crops has also become an issue. It’s led to people worrying about finding true non-modified crops.

Because Europe and other countries don’t allow GM foods, and many under developed countries (such as India, Zambia and Venezuela) don’t support the idea of GM crops, this has become a U.S. issue. Many of the biotech companies are based in America and have the money to promote their products. Their power in our government is a lot stronger than that of independent farmers. But the potential for future GM foods is fascinating. Scientists are already looking into modifying bananas to produce vaccines against infectious diseases and engineering fish to grow faster. But on the other hand the FDA doesn’t run tests on GM foods, instead saying the developers of the foods have found it to be safe.

At the end of the day the battle over genetically modified foods is one of choice. Do you want the ability to choose between GM foods and non-modified ones? Do you want better regulation, and more studies of this new technology before it takes over the market? Are you comfortable with the decisions the government has made? When it comes to developing countries and the food crisis the questions become even more complex. Does the ability to produce foods that have special qualities override the downsides to GM foods? Will this really solve world hunger? Everyone needs to do research about his or her food and come to his or her own decisions. That way you can support your opinion with confidence