What is a GMO?
o A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism (plant, animal, bacteria or virus) whose genetic makeup has been modified for a particular purpose.
o The organism does not occur naturally in this modified state.
o For example, a plant can be modified to carry an additional gene found in another living thing (such as a bacteria) to protect itself against insect pests.
o Genes carry the information or the “recipe”, in the sequences and structures of DNA, which gives the organism its specific characteristics.
o Genes can be added, removed or changed, using modern biotechnology methods.
o Because Genes are common to life on earth, genes can be transferred from one organism to another and even between non-related species.
o This manipulation can produce a product with new characteristics which may have advantages.
How are GMOs useful to us?
- GM (genetically modified) plants are already being cultivated as crops and consumed by humans and animals.
- Using genetic engineering, new improved varieties of crops can be produced more quickly than with conventional breeding methods.
- Crops can be modified to have valuable characteristics such as tolerance to drought and herbicides, resistance to disease and insects, as well as improved nutritional content.
- · Insulin as a treatment for diabetes was the first commercial healthcare product produced by GMOs.
- · Bacteria were genetically modified to have a copy of the human insulin gene, and the protein is synthesized by the bacteria.
- · GMOs can produce other medicines such asgrowth hormone.
- · GMOs are used in current vaccines such as Hepatitis B (produced by yeast), and new vaccines are being developed using GMO technology.
- · In the future, plants may even be engineered to contain the vaccines so that we may be able to eat our vaccinations rather go for an injection.
- · In the future, GMOs may be used for gene therapy to correct certain genetic conditions.
- · GM cotton has been created to be resistant to insect attack to improve the yield of the crop.