Genetic Agriculture

A pretty hot button topic lately is the use of GMO’s. The acronym stands for Genetically Modified Organism. We know the name but how many of us really know what GMO’s really are? That all depends on where you get your definition from. The federal government has a fairly specific definition, only organisms that have genetic information from more another organism inserted into them are considered GMO. This means that much more common transgenic organisms do not fall under this umbrella. A transgenic organism has not had any genetic material added to it. The only modification it has had is a change in coding function. That means a specific sequence that was coding for a protein  was turned off, or an inactive sequence was turned on. There are other methods of manipulating traits in organisms such as selective breeding and through radiation. In the case of irradiation the change comes in the form of a mutation. The change is not predictable, and this is most commonly used in plants. Selective breeding is the practice wherein a male and female of the same species, both having desired traits, are bred to each other. In order for this to be successful the traits that are being selected for must follow a Mendelian inheritance pattern. This means that the desired trait must be present in the F1 and F2 generations in predictable patterns. If these patterns are observed then producers (in our case agriculturalists) can predict the inherited traits of the resulting animals or plants. The importance for us is that this  will allow for the selection of things that have improved yields, disease resistance, flavor, storage ability, etc. There are currently a multitude of GMO products on the market for human consumption. I hope to soon get into some pros and cons of these crops and do a highlight on several of them. What do you think about GMO’s?


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