GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are those organisms whose genome has been altered at the molecular level to express certain desired physiological traits or to obtain desirable biological products. This is done by introducing genes from unrelated species of the same organism to obtain traits that would not have been obtained easily through conventional breeding.
An example of a GM crop is “golden” rice, which produces almost 20 times the beta-carotene of previous varieties. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the liver.
Golden rice was created by including a gene from the daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus that produces an enzyme known as phytoene synthase and a gene from the bacterium Erwinia uredovora that produces an enzyme called phytoene desaturase in the rice genome. The introduction of these genes enabled beta-carotene to accumulate in the rice endosperm, increasing the amount of beta-carotene available for vitamin A synthesis in the body.
The methods of genetic engineering used to produce GMOs are recombinant gene technology and reproductive cloning.
In reproductive cloning, a nucleus is extracted from a cell of the individual to be cloned and is inserted into the enucleated cytoplasm of a host egg, producing genetically identical offspring.
Recombinant DNA technology involves the insertion of one or more individual genes from an organism of one species into the DNA of another.
Whole-genome replacement, involving the transplantation of one bacterial genome into the cytoplasm of another microorganism has been reported, although this technology is still limited to basic scientific applications.
The application of the science behind GMOs can be applied in many fields like agriculture, medicine, and environmental management. This technology opens up new and exciting vistas for future scientific research.
Michigan State University