Understanding the non-GMO movement

Reading Tutorial

Understanding the non-GMO movement


The following is a reading comprehension exercise. Read the article, then answer the questions to the best of your ability with complete, grammatically correct sentences.

Sample Problem

Question source


Perhaps you’ve seen the butterfly label, ”catch the butterfly,” on products at your grocery store, but do you know what the seal means?

The butterfly label identifies a product as genetically modified organism free, as verified by a nonprofit organization called the Non-GMO Project. The Non-GMO Project is currently responsible for the fastest growing food label verification program in North America. Their aim is to educate consumers on the dangers to our ecosystem, including the potential eradication of natural organisms, by the proliferation of genetically modified products and farming practices. Since over the past 100 years, 90% of crop variety has been lost through extinction, the organization believes that by administering a food labeling program and preserving consumer choice, buyers can vote with their dollars and avoid supporting agribusiness practices that permanently threaten the organic diversity of our food supply. The movement is evidence of a growing trend, as over 60 countries and 20 states currently have mandatory GMO labeling laws. Despite [the project’s] . . . impressive efforts, “ [at least ] 80% of conventional processed food in the U.S. [still contain GMOs].”

Speaking for the Project, Andriana Rogers-Digital Marketing and Design Coordinator wrote, “[t]he GMO industry is harmful to the environment. Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. Genetically modified crops are also responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs,” which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons like 2,4-D. GMOs are also linked to issues with soil and water toxicity and loss of biodiversity. Crucial pollinators like bees and butterflies [and larger animals such as birds], are threatened by the herbicides and insecticides sprayed on genetically modified crops engineered to withstand them.”

Pro-GMO advocates argue that GMOs are beneficial. With significant weed management cost saving for farmers and a wider selection of products for the consumer, the greater good- the need to feed a growing global population and produce larger, pesticide resistant crops that are easier and cheaper to grow, over-rides any potential harmful effects to our environment. These advocates consider themselves realist and assert that any attempt to avoid GMOs by the consumer won’t have any real effect on modern farming and food supply practices.

Biodiversity issues, however, are nothing to laugh at. As most of us feel a social responsibility for halting the extinction of animal species, I see no logic in an argument which ignores concerns for plants. I have to believe humankind loses something important perhaps not yet fully understood when any living organism is permanently wiped out. Though the immediate worldwide consequences of my anti-GMO stance may be harsh and more simplistic than my comfortable, first-world view can comprehend, I believe the loss of plant biodiversity will have significant, future, global impact, as once species are eradicated, there is no turning back.

Sharing my belief, I find The Non-GMO Project campaign to be evidence of a growing trend of activist groups who feel consumers have the right to be educated about source chains and processes used to bring our food to grocery store shelves. And yes, they are making a positive change in a market run by well established, large conglomerates. Though their task may be daunting and their challenges many, I support their efforts and will continue to educate myself on the GMO/non-GMO debate. According to the Center for Food and Safety Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell, “Global GE [genetically engineered or GMO] labeling laws are springing up because both governments and citizens alike instinctively understand we all have the basic human right to know what we put in our bodies and where it came from.”

The above is a short, limited primer on the GMO debate and not all inclusive. I purposely avoided discussion of GMO use, the effect on organic farming, as well as pesticides and health concerns, in the interest of time. Future posts will deal with these topics. In the meantime, I would encourage the curious reader to review the following links in the text and the list below.

The Center for Food and Safety
The Non-GMO Project: https://www.nongmoproject.org/
AgBioForum: http://www.agbioforum.org/v12n34/v12n34a10-duke.htm
Harvard University, The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/gmos-and-pesticides/
Living Non-GMO: https://livingnongmo.org/person/andriana-rogers/

1. What is the main idea of the passage, Why is the butterfly label important?
2. What does the term non-GMO refer to?
3. What is a food labeling verification program? What are the purposes of such a program?
4. What is the author referring to in the article when she talks about “biodiversity issues”?
5. Explain arguments against food labeling and the non-GMO movement.
6. Do you think the non-GMO movement is important? Why?


Sample Answers:

1. The main idea of the article is to introduce the reader to the rationale behind the Non-GMO movement, and the movement’s attempt to inform consumers about biodiversity issues that affect the products they buy.
The butterfly label on food store packages is a symbol the “Non-GMO Project” uses to designate that a product is verified by the organization as not containing genetically modified organisms.

2. The term refers is an organic substance that is not developed by genetic engineering.

3. It is a program that encourages food suppliers to go through testing to certify that their products are not genetically engineered.
The purpose of the program is to educate the consumer on biodiversity issues that affect their environment and give them an opportunity to, “vote with their dollars,” and discourage supplier’s use of GMOs or genetically modified organisms.

4. She is talking about how the proliferation of GMO use over time will likely destroy the natural, organic, plant diversity in our environment, and how the consequences will likely be irrevocable.

5. GMOs or Genetically modified organisms are too widely used today and in too many products, such that food labeling is a waste of time and would not likely make a difference.
The greater good of making food production cheaper and more plentiful, thereby reducing world hunger, outweighs any risk of harm to the environment.

6. Yes, The Non-GMO Movement is important because consumers have a right to know how the products they buy are produced and to have a say in issues that may irrevocably affect their environment.

About The Author

The Veggie Tealover
I am a former attorney, nurse, guardian, and educator. I've earned five degrees in science, nursing, law, business, and taxation. I have owned and operated a legal practice, nurse testing company, and I am TEFL Certified. I've taught and mentored nurses and law students for several years. I've work...
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