What are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There is a complete and utter confusion going on out there, aided and abetted by many of the “green” lobby”, as to genetically modified organism and people believe that all GMOs are genetically engineered but there is a difference. And it is a difference, and a marked difference, that we must know and understand.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

GMO plants are those that have been bred through any type of genetic modification (biotech or human), including selection of fruits and vegetables for certain traits such as disease resistance, fewer seeds, thinner skins, redder color and so on. All plant hybrids, whether organically or conventionally grown are the result of genetic modification by plant breeders.

Genetically Engineered (GE)

Although GE and GMO are frequently confused, they are distinctly different. GE refers to the use of biotechnological techniques (typically recombinant DNA) to genetically manipulate organisms. In other words, these organisms, in this case plants, do not exist in nature – and never will without human intervention. GE seeds are used by agribusiness (think “Bt-corn” or “Roundup Ready”) and are not available to home gardeners.

In other words, the great majority of seeds that you buy, unless you settle for Heirloom Seeds, are hybrids of one kind or another and are, theoretically and practically, genetically modified in one way or other, though, predominately, by breeding and selection.

You can, however, keep and reuse seeds from F1 and other hybrids and they will produce new plants, but, it is reckoned, not the same variety as the original hybrid.

Personally, I have done that with beans and they turned out better than their “parents” in yield and growth and should have done that again this year also.

As I, however, due to my writing activity, get inundated with seeds from breeders and suppliers via events I did not bother keeping seeds last year and I must say that many of the runner bean seeds used (new varieties mostly) did not germinate and grow well (so far).

I have used Heirloom Seeds before also from a variety of sources and found that most of them were a waste of time and money due to the failure rate in germination.

To recap: There is a difference between genetically modified plants and seeds and genetically engineered ones. GMOs are any that are not heirloom, that is to say all hybrids, and GEs are only those that are biotechnological engineered ones.

© 2012