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. Crop Yield

    A measurement of the amount of a crop that was harvested per ...
  2. Crop Year

    The time period from one year's harvest to the next for an agricultural ...
  3. Genomics

    The study of the genome, which is the complete set of the genetic ...
  4. Financial Engineering

    The use of mathematical techniques to solve financial problems. ...
  5. Transatlantic Trade and Investment ...

    What is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)?
  6. Biotechnology

    The use of living organisms to make products or run processes. ...
Related Articles
  1. Insights

    Can Your Boss Make You Take a Genetic Test?

    Not yet, but a House bill would strip protections that prohibit employers from making genetic tests part of their wellness program.
  2. Investing

    Genetic Technologies Launches ADS Offering (GENE)

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

    Using Genetic Algorithms To Forecast Financial Markets

    Genetic algorithms are unique ways to solve complex problems by harnessing the power of nature.
  4. Insights

    Which Consumer Genetic Tests Are FDA-Approved?

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

    Retirement Tips for Engineers

    Learn specific retirement strategies for engineers. Tips include taking advantage of higher-than-average salaries to grow a sufficient retirement nest egg.
  9. Investing

    Immunomedics, Seattle Genetics Ink $2B Cancer Deal

    Immunomedics and Seattle Genetics signed a cancer-drug licensing pact worth up to $2 billion.
  10. Insights

    Monsanto’s India Problem (MON, BAYN.DE)

    Monsanto has to negotiate its terms with countries not fully sold on intellectual property rights when it comes to GMO seeds.
RELATED FAQS
  1. What is the point of agricultural subsidies?

    Read about the historical origins of agricultural subsidies, and find out why the government spends hundreds of billions ... Read Answer >>
  2. How does scarcity affect global agriculture stocks?

    Explore how scarcity affects the price of agricultural stocks. Learn how the price of agricultural commodities is closely ... Read Answer >>
  3. 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 >>
  4. 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 >>
  5. How did Larry Page amass his wealth? (GOOG)

    Learn how Larry Page made his fortune by turning a college project into what would become one of the most recognizable companies ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Preferred Stock

    A class of ownership in a corporation that has a higher claim on its assets and earnings than common stock. Preferred shares ...
  2. Net Profit Margin

    Net Margin is the ratio of net profits to revenues for a company or business segment - typically expressed as a percentage ...
  3. Gross Margin

    A company's total sales revenue minus its cost of goods sold, divided by the total sales revenue, expressed as a percentage. ...
  4. Current Ratio

    The current ratio is a liquidity ratio measuring a company's ability to pay short-term and long-term obligations, also known ...
  5. SEC Form 13F

    A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), also known as the Information Required of Institutional Investment ...
  6. Quantitative Easing

    An unconventional monetary policy in which a central bank purchases private sector financial assets in order to lower interest ...
Trading Center