When you hear the words genetically modified organism, GMO, or gen-mod food, what is your initial reaction? Does the thought of a scientifically manipulated fruit or vegetable make your mouth water? Or does it turn your stomach?
As a science writer, the topics I choose to cover vary from the mundane to the controversial, but I rarely see feather ruffling like I do when GMOs enter the conversation. Often the list of questions evoked is longer than the list of pros and cons we can draft on our own. Should we be tinkering with the genomes of plants to make them heartier, tastier, more nutritive? Does this process reduce their safety? Do consumers need to know whether their food has been genetically modified? And while we're at it, what exactly is genetic modification?
Seeking answers, I reached out to Dr. Kevin Folta, a professor in the plant molecular and cellular biology program at the University of Florida. His lab researches the role of novel genes in strawberries, and he's also a science communicator. He writes often about the role of GMOs in modern society, attempting to shed light on this often misunderstood science.