Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Handy Definitions

First things first – here are some definitions of the terms which surround genetic modification:

DNA, whose full name is deoxyribonucleic acid, is the building block of life. It is stored as a code (known as the genetic code or genome) within almost every cell of an organism, and is made up of four ‘bases’. These bases are denoted by the letters A, G, C and T. The combination that the bases are arranged into determines what information is available to build and maintain an organism (similar to how letters are arranged to form words).

A Gene is a small section of DNA (or the genetic code) which ‘codes’ for a specific thing, such as a protein or chemical. These influence the characteristics of an organism, such as eye colour, fruit size, etc.

A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), Transgenic Organism (TO) or a Genetically Engineered Organism (GEO) is an organism that has had its genome altered in some way. These three terms mean the same thing.

Genetic Modification (GM) is the term used to describe the act of changing the genome of an organism – you have modified the genetic code of the organism. This can be done by changing the existing genes of an organism in some way, or by introducing new genes from other organisms.

Genetic Engineering (GE) refers to the techniques and technologies used to create GMO’s. (I will create another post to explain the science behind GE/GM.)

Traditional Breeding, also known as selective breeding, has been used by humans for thousands of years to create organisms with desirable characteristics (such as bigger fruit) by cross-breeding existing organisms together. (I will create another post to describe this process in more detail.)

Here are some good websites which provide definitions of these terms (where I got my information from):

DNA definition:

GM Definition:

GE Definition:

Traditional Breeding Definition:

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