WHAT IS GMO? A genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GEO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms which have inserted DNA that originated in a different species.
GMO are genetically modified organisms that have been created using new techniques of recombinant DNA technology. However, the term is misleading because almost all domesticated animals and crop plants have been genetically modified over thousands of years by human selection and cross-breeding. GMO are viewed with concern because of public debate over the safety of the products and the fear that GMO foods represent a type of "biological" pollution. The battle has been particularly intense in Europe, where GMO have been banned since 1998.
GMOs can be hardier than other organisms Genetically modified organisms or GMOs, are living organisms that have been altered through genetic engineering. The purpose creating GMOs is usually to combine beneficial genes of different organisms in a single organism often for the purpose of consumption as a food source. Using GMOs in agriculture has many potential benefits. Insect and Disease Resistance One of the most important benefits of GMOs is their potential for adding to the healthiness and natural resistances of organisms. GMOs can potentially be created that have greater resistance to insect infestation and plant diseases. For instance, a certain strain of corn might produce a large amount of food tonnage, but be susceptible to insects, while another might repel the insects but produce a low amount of raw food tonnage. If the insect resistance of the lower yield plant were combined with the higher yield plant, a new GMO could be made that provides a large amount of food and resistance to insects. Another benefit of increased plant resistance is that it has the potential to reduce the amount of chemicals used on plants to protect against insects and disease, which can reduce pollution introduces to the environment. Advantages & Benefits of a GMOBy Gregory Hamel, eHow Contributor
Chemical Resistance Some plants are susceptible to being overrun or choked out by weeds that compete for the same nutrients. Another benefit of GMOs is the potential to increase the chemical resistance of food crops, allowing herbicides to be used that will harm any weeds, while leaving the desirable crop relatively unaffected. This, in turn, can increase crop yields. Nutrients GMOs are especially important for developing countries where simple nutrition is of utmost concern. GMOs provide a potential for increasing the nutritional value of plants. For example, a region might rely heavily on a certain crop such as rice or corn, which may not have all the various vitamins and minerals necessary for proper nutrition. A plant that normally offers little or no vitamin A might be combined with the genes of another plant that is high in vitamin A. GMOs can introduce new sources of essential nutrients which can fight health problems caused by nutrient deficiencies. Profitability The benefits of GMOs can have an additional affect of increasing the profitability of farming. Having plants that are better able to resist various maladies can increase crop yields while reducing the amount of money spent on efforts to protect the plants. According to Monsanto.com, farmers made an additional $10 billion in 2007 from planting GMOs, which is due to increased yields and reduced production costs.
The world population has topped 6 billion people and is predicted to double in the next 50 years. Ensuring an adequate food supply for this booming population is going to be a major challenge in the years to come. GM foods promise to meet this need in a number of ways: Crop losses from insect pests can be staggering, resulting in devastating financial loss for farmers and starvation in developing countries. Farmers typically use many tons of chemical pesticides annually. Consumers do not wish to eat food that has been treated with pesticides because of potential health hazards, and run-off of agricultural wastes from excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers can poison the water supply and cause harm to the environment. Growing GM foods such as B.t. corn can help eliminate the application of chemical pesticides and reduce the cost of bringing a crop to market .
For some crops, it is not cost-effective to remove weeds by physical means such as tilling, so farmers will often spray large quantities of different herbicides (weed-killer) to destroy weeds, a time-consuming and expensive process, that requires care so that the herbicide doesn't harm the crop plant or the environment. Crop plants genetically-engineered to be resistant to one very powerful herbicide could help prevent environmental damage by reducing the amount of herbicides needed. For example, Monsanto has created a strain of soybeans genetically modified to be not affected by their herbicide product Roundup ® . A farmer grows these soybeans which then only require one application of weed-killer instead of multiple applications, reducing production cost and limiting the dangers of agricultural waste run-off.
The term Genetically Modified foods or GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) is most commonly used to refer to crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques. These plants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content. The enhancement of desired traits has traditionally been undertaken through breeding, but conventional plant breeding methods can be very time consuming and are often not very accurate. Genetic engineering, on the other hand, can create plants with the exact desired trait very rapidly and with great accuracy. For example, plant geneticists can isolate a gene responsible for drought tolerance and insert that gene into a different plant. The new genetically-modified plant will gain drought tolerance as well. Not only can genes be transferred from one plant to another, but genes from non-plant organisms also can be used. The best known example of this is the use of B.t. genes in corn and other crops. B.t., or Bacillus thuringiensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces crystal proteins that are lethal to insect larvae. B.t. crystal protein genes have been transferred into corn, enabling the corn to produce its own pesticides against insects such as the European corn borer.