Putting DNA to Work

Growing GMOs

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Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are created by inserting genes for specific traits into a genome. These genes can either come from plants or other organisms. In corn, such genes have been chosen to improve pest and pesticide resistance, and the insertions were tested through many generations to assess the stability and safety of the new strains. The first genetically modified corps were approved for release in 1996.

Since 1987, a series of independent committees of the National Academies have pointed out that “both transgenic and conventional approaches to adding genetic variation to crops can cause changes in the plant genome that result in unintended effects on crop traits.” In this sense, all of the plants that we eat today have been “genetically modified.” New variations of food plants should therefore be carefully examined for possible adverse health or environmental effects. However, each of the committees has emphasized that “the properties of a genetically modified organism should be the focus of risk assessments, not the process by which it was produced.” – NRC 2000, 2002


Visit the Marian Koshland Science Museum to learn more.

See what countries are planting genetically modified crops and explore corn chromosomes to see how genes effect maize traits.

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