What are GMOs and why do farmers grow them? Are they safe…really?

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are often a topic of conversation when discussing food and farming. There is a lot of misinformation about these crops in the marketplace, often making it difficult for Ohio families to find the truth. GMOs may be one of the most misunderstood technologies today.

For this reason, Ohio soybean farmers want to provide information about GMOs, dispel some myths and encourage Ohioans to learn more about what may be fact vs. fiction.

Click on the links to the right to learn more.

Supporting Education and Choice

The Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) is providing the information on this website for educational purposes only. OSC supports farmers’ ability to choose the crops that are right for their farms and families, whether it is GMO, non-GMO, organic or any other combination of crops and technologies. OSC also supports Ohioans’ choice to select the food that is right for themselves and their families.

Initiative and Website Funding

When they sell soybeans, Ohio soybean farmers pay a percentage of the bushel price to a collective fund called the soybean checkoff. The Ohio Soybean Council collects a portion of those funds and invests in education, promotion and research projects under the direction of a board of volunteer soybean farmers from around the state. The OSC GMO education initiative and this website are funded by the Ohio soybean checkoff.


What are GMOs?

What are GMOs (genetically modified organisms)?

GMOs are plants developed through a process (often referred to as genetic engineering or biotechnology) in which a copy of a desired, naturally-occurring gene or section of genetic material from one plant or organism is placed into another plant to achieve a desired trait. (Source: U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance) Biotechnology is used to develop traits that make crops more resistant to pests and plant diseases, or more tolerant of extreme environmental conditions such as drought, and specific plant herbicides.

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Food Safety

In all the risk assessments in more than 15 years of field research and 30 years of laboratory research, there hasn’t been a single instance where there was a health risk associated with GMOs. On average, each GMO seed variety takes an average of 136 million dollars and 13 years to bring to market because of the research, safety studies and regulatory approvals necessary. (source: U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance)


GMO foods that are currently available are no more likely to cause allergic reactions than non-GMO foods. All GMO foods undergo food safety testing that focuses on the source of the gene or protein that has been introduced in the food to ensure no additional risk of allergic reactions. (source: Best Food Facts)


GMO foods are tested to ensure they are nutritionally equivalent to the non-GMO counterpart, unless they are specifically intended to be nutritionally different. For example, high oleic soybeans are genetically engineered to provide a cooking oil that is lower in trans fats for consumers. (source: Best Food Facts)



The Environment

GMO seeds can produce crops that are more resistant to plant diseases and pests, or more tolerant of extreme weather conditions, such as drought. Due to this resistance, fewer inputs may be required to grow these crops. In fact, the planting of GMO crops has resulted in a 379 million pound reduction in pesticide applications in the U.S. from 1996-2009. (source: USDA Economic Research Service)

GMOs have also allowed more farmers to adopt conservation tillage and make fewer trips across their fields, helping to reduce CO2 emissions by 326 million pounds. (source: Soy Connection, USB)




Due to extensive research, countless safety studies and a rigorous regulatory approval process, it takes each biotech seed variety an average of 13 years and millions of dollars to bring to market.

Both USDA and EPA conduct reviews on GMOs to prove they are safe to grow, while the FDA conducts reviews to prove that GMOs are safe to eat.

Source: U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance




Researchers and scientists are constantly developing new varieties or hybrids for specific reasons including disease resistance, the use of fewer inputs and improving nutrition, among others. Due to these benefits, GMOs have the potential to be a valuable tool for researchers and farmers around the world in providing healthy, plentiful food in an environmentally friendly way.

As the world’s population continues to grow, and agriculture’s land resources stay the same or shrink, GMO seeds can help to reduce the amount of land, water and chemicals needed to produce the food we need.


A Global Perspective

In 2013 more than 18 million farmers planted GMO crops in 27 different countries. Farmers all over the world are recognizing the increased benefits to using GMO seed.

In fact, there are very few countries that explicitly ‘ban’ GMOs. In most cases, the government has simply not yet approved various GMO crops for cultivation, import or human consumption.

The European Union is often the center of attention when discussing regulations on GMOs, however, they do not formally ban the consumption of GMOs. Rather, the EU reviews traits on a crop-by-crop basis and a decision is made based on many factors outside of scientific issues.

Source: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications


A Farmer’s Perspective

Farmers have many choices when it comes to their fields. They can purchase non-GMO seeds, GMO seeds or organic seeds and are free to choose what works for them based on their own farm, market demand and local growing environment. Due to the reduction in crop damage and adverse weather conditions, many farmers choose to grow GMO seeds.

Do Farmers Have a Choice?

Many farmers participate in ongoing education and training which enables them to choose the best seed for their farms and develop a deep knowledge on proper input management and stewardship practices.