DEFINITION of 'Genetic Engineering'

The artificial modification of an organism’s genetic composition. Genetic engineering (GE) typically involves transferring genes from one organism into another organism of a different species in order to give the latter specific traits of the former. The resulting organism is called a transgenic or genetically modified organism (GMO). Examples of such organisms include plants that are resistant to certain insects and plants that can withstand herbicides. Genetic engineering is also being used on farm animals, with research objectives such as ensuring chickens cannot spread avian flu to other birds, or that cattle cannot develop the infectious prions that cause “mad cow” disease. However, no genetically engineered animal products have yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption.

BREAKING DOWN 'Genetic Engineering'

Commercial cultivation of genetically engineered crops such as soybean, maize, canola and cotton started in the early 1990s and has grown very substantially since then. Genetically engineered or GMO crops were commercially planted on 150 million hectares in 22 developed and developing nations as of 2010, compared with less than 10 million hectares in 1996.   

Genetic engineering and GMO are topics of spirited debate between its adherents and opponents. Supporters of genetic engineering claim that genetic engineering can boost agricultural productivity by boosting crop yields and lowering pesticide and fertilizer applications. Higher productivity will boost incomes and help alleviate poverty in many developing nations. Detractors list a number of concerns surrounding GMO, including allergic reactions, gene mutation, antibiotic resistance, and potential environmental damage.  

A large number of crops have already been subjected to genetic engineering or modification, including – canola, cotton, maize, melons, papayas, potatoes, rice, sugar beets, sweet peppers, tomatoes and wheat. The uncertainty about the potential long-term detrimental effects of these GMO crops has given rise to widespread aversion to so-called “Frankenfoods.” The controversy over GMO has also made Monsanto, the agricultural giant that supplies seeds and other products to farmers, one of the most reviled companies in the U.S., according to a 2014 Harris Poll.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Genetically Modified Food (GMF)

    Food that is produced from organisms that have had their genes ...
  2. Crop Yield

    A measurement of the amount of a crop that was harvested per ...
  3. Financial Engineering

    Financial engineering is the use of mathematical techniques to ...
  4. Genomics

    The study of the genome, which is the complete set of the genetic ...
  5. Crop Year

    The time period from one year's harvest to the next for an agricultural ...
  6. Crop-Hail Insurance

    A type of insurance that insures against crop damage caused by ...
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Genetic Technologies Launches ADS Offering (GENE)

    Genetic Technologies expects to raise more than $6 million through an offering of its American Depositary Shares.
  2. Investing

    What are Genetic Algorithms?

    Genetic algorithms are problem-solving methods that mimic natural evolution processes.
  3. Insights

    Which Consumer Genetic Tests Are FDA-Approved?

    Now you can get some genetic tests without going to a doctor. Should you?
  4. Investing

    Seattle Genetics 4Q Loss 39 Cents/Share Misses Street

    Seattle Genetics reported a higher-than-expected 4Q loss of $44 million, or 39 cents a share.
  5. Personal Finance

    The Highest-Paying Engineering Careers

    Learn more about some of the highest-paying jobs in field of engineering. With just a bachelor's degree, most engineers in these jobs make well over $100,000.
  6. Investing

    Genetic Technologies In Colorectal Cancer Pact (GENE)

    The deal will help establish Genetic Technologies as a player in the cancer-test landscape.
  7. Tech

    Three Agriculture Startups Disrupting Monsanto

    Even as technology startups have disrupted other industries, agriculture has remained immune to its effect. But that is about to change.
  8. Investing

    Immunomedics, Seattle Genetics Ink $2B Cancer Deal

    Immunomedics and Seattle Genetics signed a cancer-drug licensing pact worth up to $2 billion.
  9. Personal Finance

    The 2 Top Paying Majors for Students Today

    The two highest paying majors in America.
  10. Insights

    Is Organic Really Worth The Extra Money?

    It's the shopping decision that seems to pit thrift against family health. Find out when buying "organic" matters most.
RELATED FAQS
  1. What economic indicators do agriculture investors need to watch?

    Agriculture investors should keep an eye on land prices, interest rates, inflation, harvest performance and speculative investment ... Read Answer >>
  2. When do I need to file an IRS Schedule F form?

    If you are a farmer, your farming business may require you to file a Schedule F with the IRS. Read Answer >>
  3. What types of futures contracts are typically sold on an exchange?

    Explore the wide variety of available futures contracts traded on exchanges, which range from agricultural commodities to ... Read Answer >>
  4. Who are Monsanto's main competitors?

    Learn about Monsanto Company's two main operating divisions and its main competitors within each sector, including The Mosaic ... Read Answer >>
  5. What does "cutting a melon" mean?

    In finance, the word "melon" is typically used to refer to a company's earnings. "Cutting a melon", therefore, is a term ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Private Placement

    The sale of securities to a relatively small number of select investors as a way of raising capital.
  2. AAA

    The highest possible rating assigned to the bonds of an issuer by credit rating agencies. An issuer that is rated AAA has ...
  3. Backward Integration

    A form of vertical integration that involves the purchase of suppliers. Companies will pursue backward integration when it ...
  4. Pari-passu

    A Latin phrase meaning "equal footing" that describes situations where two or more assets, securities, creditors or obligations ...
  5. Interest Rate Swap

    An agreement between two parties (known as counterparties) where one stream of future interest payments is exchanged for ...
  6. Custodian

    A financial institution that holds customers' securities for safekeeping so as to minimize the risk of their theft or loss. ...
Trading Center