A GE Glossary

Biotechnology: General term for a wide range of agricultural, industrial, and medical technologies that make use of living organisms (such as microbes, plants, or animals) or parts of living organisms (such as isolated cells or proteins) to create new strains of organisms. Often used interchangeably with "genetic engineering."

Genetic Engineering/Genetic Modification: Process of manipulating living cells, primarily DNA, to select for desired traits such as resistance to pests, fungus, and weeds, longer shelf life, improved nutritional value, and increased flavor or size. In genetic modification, a gene of one species is removed and implanted into another species, without regard for sexual compatibility between the species; offspring of the modified organism may reproduce normally.

Genetically Modified Organism: Any plant or other organism which has undergone modification to its genetic structure to include one or more genes of another species.

Cross-pollination/Genetic Drift: Fertilization of a non-genetically modified plant by the pollen of a plant that has been genetically modified. If a plant is produced from the fertilization, the resulting plant will contain the gene that was inserted into the GE plant. Concern has arisen about the possibility that genes harmful to humans in large quantities (such as natural vaccines) could drift into plant species grown for human consumption, as well as the possibility that both conventional and organic crops could lose their genetic purity.

Bt: Bacillus thuringienis, a pesticide bred into crops, including corn and potatoes, to keep insects away without harming human beings. Studies have shown that Bt has the potential to kill beneficial species such as monarch butterflies and bumblebees, and can lead to the development of pesticide-resistant species of insects.

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