Friday, March 23, 2012

The Difference Between the Terms "GE" and "GMO"

The other day in my post about a possible ballot initiative in California, I erroneously used the terms genetically engineered (GE) and genetically modified organism (GMO) interchangeably. There is actually a big difference between the two and as the battle against GE foods escalates, it's important to understand the difference.

All those anti-GMO images we see would be better served by substituting "GE" for "GMO." Here are definitions of both, courtesy of the Home Garden Seed Association. Thanks, Peter, for helping to set the record straight! Have a nice weekend.

"GE (Genetically Engineered): The terms GE and GMO [are] frequently used interchangeably in the media, but they do not mean the same thing; it is modern Genetic Engineering that is the subject of much discussion. Genetic Engineering describes the high-tech methods used in recent decades to incorporate genes directly into an organism. The only way scientists can transfer genes between organisms that are not sexually compatible is to use recombinant DNA techniques. The plants that result do not occur in nature; they are 'genetically engineered' by human intervention and manipulation. Examples of GE crops currently grown by agribusiness include corn modified with a naturally occurring soil bacterium for protection from corn borer damage (Bt-corn), and herbicide-resistant ('Roundup Ready®') soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and alfalfa. All of these are larger acreage, commercial crops. At the present time, home gardeners will not encounter any packets of GE seeds sold through home garden seed catalogs or garden center seed racks.

"GMO (Genetically Modified Organism): The USDA defines a GMO as an organism produced through any type of genetic modification, whether by high-tech modern genetic engineering, OR long time traditional plant breeding methods. While you often hear the GE and GMO used interchangeably, they have different meanings. For hundreds of years, genes have been manipulated empirically by plant breeders who monitor their effects on specific characteristics or traits of the organism to improve productivity, quality, or performance. When plant breeders, working with conventional or organically produced varieties, select for traits like uniformity or disease resistance in an open-pollinated variety or create a hybrid cross between two cultivars, they are making the same kind of selections which can also occur in nature; in other words, they are genetically modifying organisms and this is where the term GMO actually applies. Examples of 20th century breeding work include familiar vegetables and fruits such as seedless watermelons, pluots and modern broccoli.


Anonymous said...

Very helpful. This has been bothering for some time, so now I can quote you!

Maddie McCarthy said...

This something that I have been wondering about for quite some time and finally got around to googling today. Thank you for sharing. Very helpful!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm currently working on a plant physiology project where I have to talk on GMC's. I'm glad I saw this or I would have been feeding people the wrong info!....will be sure to cite my sources

Unknown said...

So foods labeled GMO free could actually contain GE foods??

Anonymous said...

No. GMO includes GE. So if no GMO then no GE.

Anonymous said...

What if the food states only Ge free but not GMO

penguin said...

What nonsense, attempting to suggest that there's any difference, while the words used actually say otherwise.

Mia said...

Please spare us the semantics and attempt to confuse which many already bought lock stock &
Genetically engineered organisms such as beets or corn are modified via genetic engineering.
As are glowing trees and GMO salmon.
Do you think were all sleeping and dumb do you think I can't see right through this blog to you master?

Anonymous said...

The university of Hawaii has GE papaya seed available.

"Packets of ‘UH Rainbow’ and ‘UH SunUp’ seeds are
available to home gardeners from CTAHR’s Agricul­
tural Diagnostic Service Center. Terms of a license agree­
ment require that seed purchasers first attend a 1-hour
orientation course, offered periodically."

But do those growing Non-GE papayas from seed tainted by their neighbors GE papayas have to attend the course? Do they know they are now growing an unnatural plant? No and no.


Unknown said...

Not true...Goats, sheep, cows, chickens, horses, and dogs have been genetically engineered for centuries. If you have a boxer and a mastiff and you breed them, you just did genetical engineering. Goats have been genetiically engineered for centuries for their coats, meat, or milk.

Unknown said... are the one confused. Genetically engineered is accomplished by cross breeding. GMO is accomplished bt gene splicing, it is mechanial.

Anonymous said...

Ernest Short, both can be used effectively for both things, but genetic engineering is usually used to refer to the scientific practice of taking a gene from one organism and inserting it into another, whereas genetic modification can be used more widely, including cross-breeding.

Parker C. said...

THANK YOU for posting. The comments themselves are an indication about how much confusion there is on this subject. All GEOs are GMOs but not all GMOs are GEOs. My beagle is a GMO but she is not genetically engineered. Her traits are a result of selective breeding for hundreds of years not because her genes were sliced and diced in a biotech lab.

National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) defined genetically engineered as "made with techniques that alter the molecular or cell biology of an organism by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes."

The USDA's definition of genetic engineering is "manipulation of an organism's genes by introducing, eliminating or rearranging specific genes using the methods of modern molecular biology, particularly those techniques referred to as recombinant DNA techniques."

The Codex Alimentarius Commission defines it as "Genetically engineered/modified organisms, and products thereof, are produced through techniques in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination." (or transduction)

The USDA regulations define genetic modification as more broad in scope than genetic engineering: "the production of heritable improvements in plants or animals for specific uses, via either genetic engineering or other more traditional methods."

Anonymous said...

Thank you. This was very helpful. I have been trying to explain for sometime the difference and now I can. With reference. It is greatly appreciated.