You've probably heard of GMOs, and you might even know what it stands for (genetically modified organisms), but understanding what GMOs actually are is a whole other ball game, and there's a lot of misinformation floating around. Fortunately, Neil deGrasse Tyson and his StarTalk on Mashable podcast is here to set the record straight and start the dialogue on what it really means and how it impacts our health.
Tyson's guest on the podcast is Dr. Pamela Ronald — a plant pathologist, geneticist, and professor at UC Davis in California.
"We've been modifying organisms ever since the dawn of agriculture," says Tyson in the podcast. "There are no herds of wild milk cows wandering the countryside. We cultivated, or genetically changed, corn from whatever cavemen ate to these big ol' sticks of corn that we now munch on. This is essentially true for every food in the grocery store."
One point that both Tyson and Ronald agree on is the broad use of the term "GMO" and how it is mistakenly interchanged and confused with genetically engineered foods.
"It's not that we need so-called 'GMOs,' but we need to advance sustainable agriculture," Ronald said. "Within those, we need ecologically-based farming practices, but we also need seed."
Americans are split on the matter. According to the Pew Research Center, 39 percent of Americans consider genetically modified foods to be worse for your health than non-modified foods, and 48 percent say genetically modified foods are neither better nor worse than other foods. A mere 10 percent of American adults believe genetically modified foods are better for your health.
Ultimately, Tyson and Ronald make the case that all seeds have been modified on some level, whether it be through selective breeding or crossing strains. The real issue, they note, is not GMOs. Instead, they make the case that the more troubling issue is how ingesting pesticides is affecting American consumers.