What are Genetically Modified Foods?

The term GM food or GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) is commonly used to refer to crop plants modified for human or animal consumption using cutting edge molecular biology techniques. Plants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance wanted traits like increased resistance to herbicides or better nutritional content. Breeding has traditionally carried out the enhancement of desired traits, but usual plant breeding methods can be very time consuming and are not very accurate. Genetic engineering, on the other hand, is able to produce plants with an exact desired trait very quickly and with great accuracy. For example, plant geneticists have the capability to isolate a gene responsible for drought tolerance and insert that gene into a different plant. This new genetically-modified plant will gain drought tolerance as well. With genetic engineering, not only can genes be transferred from one plant to another, but genes from other organisms also can be transferred. An example of this is the use of Bacillus thuringiensis genes in corn and other crops. The Bacillus thuringiensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium that is able to produce crystal proteins that are lethal to insect larvae. The B.t. crystal protein genes have been able to be transferred into corn, enabling the corn to produce its own pesticides against some insects such as the European corn borer.


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