I am confused and hope you know-it-alls at SYA can help me.

I am confused and hope you know-it-alls at SYA can help me.

I read a lot and hear a lot on TV about "genetically modified organisms" but nobody explains what they are. I know they are referring to the crops but what exactly are GMOs? How did they get that way?

— Gene T., Rogue River

Despite rumors to the contrary, we don't know everything, Gene.

But few can match our ability to Google, snoop and ferret out answers, particularly when we are inspired after a long nap.

Brainiacs or not, we were inspired by your query.

A GMO is — drum roll, please — simply a living organism whose genes have been artificially manipulated. Basically, that means foreign DNA has been introduced through gene splicing.

We are feeling smug at this point since we've reached it without any digging, although we huffed and puffed a bit to pull it out with our combined brainpower.

An example that most scientists — the unsmiling folks in white coats — often trot out by way of an example is transgenic corn into which bacteria DNA has been introduced to produce insecticide. That means the corn does not have to be sprayed to keep bugs away because it has its own built in bug-zapper.

There's also herbicide-resistant corn, which can survive herbicides while competing weeds cannot. One of the downsides to that, opponents say, is that greater amounts of herbicides can be sprayed on the corn that one day could find its way onto our plates.

You'll probably get to hear a lot more about the mysterious GMO in the coming months, as Jackson County voters will get the chance to vote on whether GMOs should be banned from crops raised in the county.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.