GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, are living things that have had their genetic code altered. Typically, a package of genes is taken from an unrelated organism and inserted into the GMO to create a desired trait, like herbicide resistance. A GMO that is resistant to herbicide will survive when sprayed while nearby weeds die. GMOs exist for many reasons and in many forms; for the purposes of this discussion, we use GMO to indicate a crop that has been modified to tolerate chemical herbicide, like the crops produced by Monsanto (now Bayer).
The problem is that these GMOs haven’t lived up to their promise and have facilitated poor agricultural practices, like monocropping and intense use of toxic chemicals. Nature adapts. Chemicals that were once sufficient to kill weeds becomes less effective as weed pressure changes, requiring more intense application to achieve the same result—and many of those chemicals end up in our air and waterways. Since introducing GMOs, we are using more herbicides than ever before, not less.
Perhaps more importantly, the rise of these GMOs has created a vertically integrated system owned by the chemical company. Farmers become mere implementers of someone else’s design, obligated to pay a licensing fee on every bag of seed, and vulnerable to prosecution. GMO crops may simplify food production, requiring fewer people to manage more acres, but the short term gain comes at cultural and spiritual costs. The fracturing of rural communities in which younger generations see no future is a direct consequence of this type of industrial agriculture.
GMO cropping is ultimately short-sighted and reductionist, putting power in the hands of a few. Regenerative organic agriculture instead encourages an expansionist method that puts power in the hands of as many farmers as possible.