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.
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5 comments:

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

Zippy S said...

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

Anonymous said...

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