Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are commonly used in foods and medicines. This has led to concern about the dangers they might cause to the environment and to human health. The European Commission states that as of August 2005, farmers had planted GMO crops on one-fourth of all land under cultivation in the world. Farmers in the United States grow the most genetically modified crops. According to UK Agriculture, GMOs can be divided into two main types: indoor, or laboratory-grown GMOs; and outdoor, or field-grown GMOs.
Medicines and vaccines produced through GMO means include insulin, thyroid hormones and the hepatitis B vaccine, according to the University of California San Diego. This makes it easier and less expensive to produce these medications, making them more available. Insulin is one of the older examples of GMO products.
Indoor: Food Additives
Many food additives are also produced using GMOs. Some of the more commonly known examples are aspartame and yeast. However, many other types of additives you see near the end of ingredient lists can also be produced using GMOs.
Outdoor: Pest Resistant
Farmers can get GMO versions of crops including cotton, corn and potatoes that are resistant to common pests. This can help to limit crop losses and increase their overall crop yields. These crops can also limit the need for farmers to use pesticides on their crops, saving the farmers money and limiting the amount of pesticides that are released into the environment.
Outdoor: Herbicide Tolerant
Farmers who don't want to deal with weeds in their crops can get seeds for versions of canola, corn, cotton, sugar beet and soybeans that are tolerant of herbicides so that they can easily kill off the weeds without killing their crops. However, the makers of the seeds for these crops don't allow seeds to be saved, so farmers end up spending more money on seeds as well as on the herbicides that are used.
Outdoor: Delayed Ripening
Some fruits have also been genetically modified to make them ripen later, according to the European Commission. This can help make them available fresh in the marketplace during a longer time frame or, for fruits that ripen after being picked, make it easier to transport them.
Outdoor: Increased Nutrients
Although it is not as common, some types of GMOs are modified to increase their nutrient content. Corn and soybeans are two examples of crops that have higher-nutrient GMO versions available.