What does it mean to be a Genetically Modified Organism?

Genetically Modified Organism
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism which has had its genetic material modified through the use of genetic engineering techniques. The history of the creation and use of GMOs is long and complex, but can be boiled down to a number of major events. GMOs encompass a wide range of organisms that can be found in all aspects of modern society, medicine, and economy. Often, GMOs elicit an inherent controversy when they are brought up for discussion, even in the most democratic circles. There are a number of international regulations that govern the spread, use, and trade of genetically modified organisms.

The history of genetically modified organisms is closely tied to the history of genetics and genetic engineering itself. Genetic modification resulting from human intervention has been occurring since around 12000 BC. Initially, this genetic manipulation involved the selective breeding and domestication of plants and animals through the use of artificial selection (breeding particularly friendly dogs would be an example, as would selecting the plants producing the largest or sweetest fruit). When DNA was discovered in the mid 20th century it was also discovered that it contained the genetic code for living organisms. Further developments were built on that idea and expanded in order to give a broad overview of how genes can encode the many proteins that allow biological processes to take place. Tools were then developed that allow the manipulation (insertion, modification, deletion, etc.) of genetic sequences leading to the type of genetic modification of organisms that has become commonplace today.

The footprints of genetic modification can be found in a wide spectrum of organisms that span the range of contemporary society. Some simple plants have been modified in order to act to produce pharmaceutical products more effectively or to produce certain colors (which are prized by collectors). GMOs are frequently used in agricultural settings in order to produce rare traits. Some of these traits include resistance to pests, herbicides, or other harmful conditions. They are also used to produce higher yields that can then be repurposed into biofuels or food stuffs. Genetically modified organisms help to form the backbone of the modern agricultural economy.

Some people believe that genetically modified organisms are inherently dangerous for human consumption or that they could lead to natural (non-modified) plant varieties dying out because of increased competition for resources. Current scientific consensus is that genetically modified food is no less safe than conventionally grown food stuffs and will produce no ill effects upon consumption. There are, however, some anti-GMO advocacy groups (Greenpeace and the Organic Consumers Association are among them) that exist in order to combat what they see as a dangerous product. It should also be noted that some people believe that using technology to genetically modify organisms may be a dangerous act in and of itself, citing possible environmental harm that could be caused by the creation of such organisms.

The regulation of genetic engineering usually begins before any experiments actually take place and involve long and complex approval process through which exact protocols are submitted to review boards. The exact regulations that must be followed can vary from location to location, especially when the release of genetically modified organisms is a possibility. The regulations regarding the possible release of genetically modified organisms are most strict in Europe and are slightly less strict in the United States.

A genetically modified organism is one in which there has been some form of genetic manipulation either through insertion, deletion, or modification of genetic sequences. Genetic modification of organisms is a complicated process but has been made more simple by the creation of new laboratory techniques. The process itself is not inherently dangerous and neither are the products. Genetically modified organisms play an important role in the current world economy and are a benefit to mankind as a whole. Though some see genetic engineering as a risky process, it is highly regulated in order to better ensure safety for everyone involved.

Written by : Alexander Maness, United Stated (M.S. in Biotechnology )

Go Back to Biology

Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice