What is GMO?

In the many conversations I have had with various individuals, it has come to my attention that there is often confusion around what GMO means and how it differs from other related concepts.  Below is a brief clarification of those concepts.

GMO, an acronym for genetically modified organism, is defined as an organism or micro-organism whose genetic material has been altered by means of genetic engineering.  A more specific type of genetically modified organism is a “transgenic organism,” an organism whose genetic makeup has been altered by the addition of genetic material from an unrelated organism (a different species).  This is the concept we are referring to when we refer to GMO foods.  This brief video will give you a basic understanding of how GMO foods are created.

Recombinant DNA technology is the method scientists use to create GMO products.  Recombinant DNA takes DNA from two different species and joins them together with mechanical methods and then inserts them into a host organism to produce new genetic combinations.

Hybridization is the crossing of animals of two different breeds of the same animal type by natural sexual reproduction to obtain a new breed of animal.  A perfect example of this is the Labradoodle dog.

Selective breeding is similar to hybridization but occurs over a longer period of time.  This is utilized when one desires to enhance a specific naturally occurring genetic trait.  The animals with the most prominent of that desired trait are mated together to further enhance that specific trait.  This can take a small number of matings or occur over many years.  Race horses are selectively bred for specific qualities that will make them faster runners.