Take the GMO quiz: how much do you know?

I’ll admit it, I kind of like taking those stupid online quizzes. You know: what city were you meant to live in, what Harry Potter character are you, etc. These are pressing, important issues, right?! Not so much, but they’re fun, I like doing them, and I bet you do, too. So I decided to make a quiz for you guys! It’s in the vein of a personality quiz, and I fully expect all my dedicated momsensians to get the “Big Ag Shill” title! Make me proud. If you don’t, don’t fret, scroll down below the quiz and read the answers and discussion, and take the quiz again.


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*************************SPOILER ALERT*************************** The answers to this quiz are below! Don’t cheat! Take the test first, then read the answers.


Question: What does GMO mean?

Answer: GMO stands for genetically modified organism.


Question: How many crops come in GMO (transgenic) varieties?

Answer: 6-10 There are currently eight crops that are commercially available as GMO: Corn (field and sweet), soybeans, canola, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beet, squash and papaya. *Edited for clarification* This is excluding food that may be considered “genetically modified” in the sense that it’s a result of selective breeding. You can make an argument that everything we eat is “genetically modified” through selective breeding, which we as humans have been doing for hundreds of years.  But for the sake of simplicity, we’ll consider GMOs to be those produced through genetic engineering or transgenics.


Question: Where in the grocery store are you  most likely to find GMOs?

Answer: Packaged food. Aside from papaya and a small amount of sweet corn and squash, packaged/processed foods are where you’ll find the majority  of ingredients that have been derived from GMOs. Examples include corn oil, cornstarch, cornmeal, soybean oil, soy flour, soy protein, soy lecithin, sugar (from beets, not cane), canola oil, cottonseed oil, and corn syrup. These products are often found in baked goods, cereals, snack foods, foods containing corn sugars/syrup, etc.


Question: Which of the following is a source for the transgene in the commercially available GMOs?

Answer: Bacteria. Bt crops produce their own protection against insect damage using a protein from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. Interestingly, the Bt protein is also used as a spray by organic farmers and gardeners.


Question: Monsanto is the only company that makes GMOs.

Answer: False. Monsanto is one of the “big six” companies investing in biotechnology in the private sector. The other five include Pioneer, BASF, Syngenta, Dow, and Bayer. But there are plenty of other smaller players around the world working on biotechnology as well.


Question: GMOs allow farmers to

Answer: Spray less pesticide and adopt no-till and reduced-till practices. Bt crops have greatly reduced the amount of insecticide applied to crops, as much as an 18-fold decrease in corn between 1976 and 2010. In fact, in the first 17 years of adoption, biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying by 503 million kg and has reduced the environmental footprint associated with pesticide use by 18.7 percent. The technology has also significantly reduced the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture equivalent to removing 11.9 million cars from the roads. Part of that is due to reduced or no-till practices  made possible by herbicide-tolerant crops like Roundup Ready. Reduced and no-till practices help sequester carbon in the soil.


Question: How can you avoid GMOs?

Answer: (all answers with the *) Buy USDA certified organic, buy food with the Non-GMO Project label, or look at the ingredients. Food labeled USDA certified organic is by definition GMO-free, as is food with a GMO-free specific label. Additionally, as I said above, there are only eight crops that are commercially available in GM varieties. Turn the package around and look for the words: corn, soy, cotton, sugar, canola, squash, alfalfa (not in food anyway) or papaya. If those words aren’t listed on the ingredients, it’s not GM. If they are, assume it is GM, because in most of those crops (corn, soy, cotton, canola) more than 90 percent of the crops grown in the US are GM. The exceptions are sugar since only about half the sugar in the US comes from beets, squash and sweet corn (which both have lower adoption rates.) The percentage is closer to 70 percent for Hawaiian-grown papaya, so you can pay attention to the country of origin if you’re interested in avoiding GM papaya.


Question: GMOs are banned in 64 countries.

Answer: False. GMOs are not banned in 64 countries. GMOs are only banned in one country: Kenya. In some ways this is semantics, but take the EU for example: while some countries (but not all) in the EU have banned the growth of particular GM crops, the EU imports almost three-quarters of it’s feed for livestock, much of which is GM. Additionally, they are not disallowed there due to safety; it’s more of a political and public perception issue in the EU.


Question: The scientific consensus is that GMOs are safe for human consumption.

Answer: True, every leading health organization in the world stands behind their safety, including the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the International Society of African Scientists, and the European Commission, to name a few.


Question: We’ve been eating GMOs for how long?

Answer: 15-20 years. About 18 years, in fact. GMOs were introduced in 1996 when Monsanto commercialized Roundup Ready soybeans.


Question: How many documented human health incidents (that can be attributed to GMOs) have there been since GMOs were introduced?

Answer: None. Not a single one.


Question: Organic growers can lose their organic certification because of cross contamination from GMOs.

Answer: False. In fact, no US organic farmer has ever lost organic certification this way. The National Organic Program explicitly states that as long as an organic farmer didn’t intentionally use “excluded methods” (like GMOs), unintentional presence of GM material won’t impact organic certification.


Question: GMO corn seed is blue and regular corn seed is not.

Answer: False. (so, so very false.) The only reason I included this question is because there has been an extremely deceptive picture floating around the Internet that came from the Yes on 92 campaign in Oregon (and a terrible commercial) that implies that GMO corn seed is blue BECAUSE it’s GM. No. It’s blue because it contains a seed treatment, which has nothing to do with the seeds being GM. Seed treatments are a pesticide (fungicide or insecticide) that is applied to the exterior of the seed before planting to help protect the young seedling during emergence and initial growth. This is very common for conventional and GMO seeds alike. Regulators require that seed treatment preparations contain dyes to color-mark seeds that have been treated so that they can be recognized on sight and not introduced directly into the human food supply. Even organic farmers use some seed treatments. Additionally, seed treatments allow farmers to use small, very targeted application of pesticides.


I hope you learned something today! And if you already knew all of this, congratulations, you’re using your momsense.

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21 Responses to Take the GMO quiz: how much do you know?

  1. Alan McHughen

    Your question with ” None of the genes for commercially available GMOs come from fish, algae or corn.” is wrong.

    Most transgenes are of bacterial origin, but some are plant, including corn. The glyphosate tolerance in Monsanto’s GA21 corn is from a corn epsp synthase, for example.

  2. love2Cook31

    Technically, there are well over 50 crops that are GMO. Most of them are naturally occurring in nature but it’s still technically a genetically modified organisim. For example, carrots that are orange = GMO. Carrots were naturally purple but the orange color was bred in like 1400-1600s (I don’t remember the time frame).
    But if you want to be lame and only include lab-type GMOs then fine, there are 6-10. But I’m going to be the pain in the ass that includes naturally occurring genetic mutations in the GMO category… just for kicks…and because I like to rock the boat.

    • Sara

      Ok ok ok. If you want to be all technical about it. But, trust me, I would have gotten WAAAAY more flack if I’d said there were 50+ GMOs on the market. Think of the number of scientists that would have pointed out my mistake!! 🙂

      • love2Cook31

        That depends on what you call a scientist. Is it some who got a degree(s) in biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, or medical; or someone who got his/her degree from GoogleU?

      • Erfan

        Maybe this could be rectified by changing it from “GMO” to “GE”, because technically speaking, there are way over 50+ crops that are GMO (through selective breeding) but few commercially available GE plants (i.e. transgenics). I was a little confused going through this thinking “well…. do they mean “GE” when they say “GMO”? Cause that’s a common misconception…”

        • Sara

          I agree with you that in the true sense of the words (genetically modified) that includes selective breeding, but I really designed this quiz for the layman. I think if I were to group those together it would be more confusing than clarifying, which is what I’m trying to do here. I’d almost rather include an additional question that differentiates the two (GE and selective breeding). I will think about that. Thanks for your input!

        • Wilko

          If you include selective breeding into the GMO category, then I think, everything in the market is GMO (way more than 50).
          I can’t think of a single item in the produce or meat section that is not modified by selective breeding. The only exception would be wild caught fish.

          • love2Cook31

            So I did some digging because I wanted to know what the very first tomato was (or at least the first tomato known to man). Apparently, the first tomato was a tiny yellow tomato… so I guess everything after that is a GMO… Someone should tell Food Babe that she’s eating GMO tomatoes if she eats any type of tomato that isn’t the tiny, yellow tomato… O.o

          • Sara

            As I said, this is technically correct, but a nuance that I don’t think adds much value to the conversation around GMOs. You could make the same argument that technically everything we eat is organic (in the true sense of word; containing carbon) but as we all know, that’s not what the organic label means in the same way that when people talk about labeling GMOs they’re not including selective breeding. But, since people seem to be stuck on this point, I will try to edit it for clarification.

  3. edouard

    An organic farmer in Australia lost his organic certification because of GMO contamination. His neighbour’s GMO canola
    contaminated his farm. He sued his neighbour and lost, though he should have sued the organic certification agency.
    Google Steve Marsh GMO for the story.

  4. I got 100%, not surprised. Still waiting for my big ag shill cheque. Sure could use it right about now!

  5. The Star Ruby is the darkest of the red varieties. Developed from an irradiated Hudson grapefruit

  6. Brandi

    “Congratulations, you know so much about GMOs that clearly someone has paid you to know the correct answers to all these questions!” You know, some of us do research these measures before voting especially in the states where this matters. Measure 92 is a very big and important ballot measure. I did my due diligence to research, educate and understand what this measure was asking of me before voting. I’m not sure if you are for or against these ballot measures; however, I do think you should at least give the voters some credit.

    • Sara

      Brandi, it’s not meant to offend, it’s a joke. And maybe it’s a little ironic, too. Maybe when those who support mandatory labeling get called shills, they understand a little bit how the rest of us who advocate against mandatory labeling feel every time we get called shills. I get called a shill because I’m against labeling, even though I don’t work for Big Ag, and no one is paying me to do what I do. But again, it’s just a joke. It’s a personality quiz, after all. You can’t please everyone. The facts are still there.

      • Brandi

        No, you can’t please everyone which is why this measure is a very big deal in Oregon, as you know. I guess the reason I was shocked by the Ag Shill is because I’m not for the measure and neither are the people close to me who are farmers. I’m sure they would love to get more money for the work they do, lol. To be honest, I moved here from Oklahoma and never heard of “working for Ag Shill” until I moved to Oregon. I’ve always seen Agriculture as a humbling profession. This state continues to interest me…well thank you for clearing up your intent with the quiz. I appreciate it.

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