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January 20th, 2017 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

This is the second article in a three-part series exploring some common concerns heard about GMOs.

The use of herbicides and pesticides in modern farming may be the most misunderstood issue out there. Let’s try to reconnect it with reality a little bit. There are currently two major traits that GE crops have been bred for.

We’ll start with the second most common trait, the Bt trait. This has been bred mostly into corn and cotton, but is making it’s way into other crops as well. Corn borers and bollworms are two major pests for corn and cotton. These pests have been managed for decades with the organic pesticide Bt which is a soil bacteria which is poisonous to these insects. It’s important to understand the ‘mode of action’ through which Bt kills these insects. In fact, it’s important to understand the concept from toxicology of ‘mode of action’.

Mode of action is the way that a substance acts as a toxin. Most so-called poisons aren’t poisonous in a vague general way. They do something specific to their ‘targets’. The more specific, the better, because something can be very toxic to one organism and harmless to another. See more