What is 'Genetic Engineering'

Genetic engineering is the artificial modification of an organism’s genetic composition. Genetic engineering typically involves transferring genes from one organism into another organism of a different species to give the latter specific traits of the former. The resulting organism is called a transgenic or genetically modified organism, or GMO. Examples of such organisms include plants that are resistant to certain insects and plants that can withstand herbicides.

BREAKING DOWN 'Genetic Engineering'

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.

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 concerns and controversy

The topics of genetic engineering and GMO have become highly debated and, in some cases, the source of considerable controversy. This area has generated spirited debate between adherents and opponents.

Supporters claim that genetic engineering can boost agricultural productivity by boosting crop yields and lowering pesticide and fertilizer applications. GMO tactics can allow the development of crops that are resistant to disease and have a longer shelf life. Higher productivity will boost incomes and help alleviate poverty in many developing nations. These supporters also point to genetic engineering as a way to help solve famine in areas where crops are scarce or can be difficult to grow via traditional means. Detractors list a variety of concerns surrounding GMO, including allergic reactions, gene mutation, antibiotic resistance, and potential environmental damage. Those who are leery of genetic engineering also have concern about the unpredictable aspect of venturing into previously unexplored scientific territory.  

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. Some people are opposed to genetic engineering entirely, believing that science should not interfere with the natural process of how organisms are created and develop.

The uncertainty about the potential long-term detrimental effects of these GMO crops has given rise to widespread aversion to so-called Frankenfoods. A study conducted by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2016, however, found no increased level of risks associated with genetically engineered crops as compared to conventionally cultivated crops.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Genetically Modified Food (GMF)

    Genetically Modified Food is produced from organisms that have ...
  2. Molecular Biology

    Molecular biology is the study of biological activity among the ...
  3. Crop Method

    Crop method is a special accounting method available to farmers ...
  4. Phenotype

    Phenotype refers to a set of observable characteristics which ...
  5. Knowledge Engineering

    Knowledge engineering is a field of artificial intelligence (AI) ...
  6. Biotechnology

    Biotechnology is a scientific area of study that involves the ...
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

    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.
  3. Tech

    Japan's GMO Internet to Launch New Crypto Mining Business

    The Japanese internet giant GMO has developed a new cryptocurrency mining business.
  4. Investing

    Glaxo Goes Silicon Valley in $300M 23andMe Deal

    GlaxoSmithKline wants to leverage 23andMe's massive DNA database to research treatments for many diseases.
  5. Investing

    Genetic Technologies In Colorectal Cancer Pact (GENE)

    The deal will help establish Genetic Technologies as a player in the cancer-test landscape.
  6. 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.
  7. Small Business

    4 Future Jobs In The Sci-Fi Future

    As long as the human race has problems, we'll continue developing new things and ideas to solve those problems.
  8. Personal Finance

    Best Websites For Engineering Jobs

    Start with industry-specialized websites, but cast a wide net to look for engineering jobs that are the best fit for your goals and skills.
  9. Investing

    3 Biotech Stocks Poised for 12% Gains

    Biotech stocks are one of the market's hottest sectors.
  10. Insights

    Top Agricultural Producing Countries

    Discover which countries produce the most agricultural products, which export the most and what is being done to increase production.
RELATED FAQS
  1. 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 >>
  2. When should a company recognize revenues on its books?

    When a company makes revenues from its operations, it must be recorded in the general ledger and then reported on the income ... Read Answer >>
  3. Biotech vs Pharmaceutical company

    Though biotech and pharmaceutical companies share similar business features, there also have differences. Here, we'll distinguish ... Read Answer >>
  4. 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 >>
Trading Center