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NEW TECHNOLOGY - GENETIC MODIFICATION (GM)

Introduction to Genes and GM Foods

How to make genetically modified crops with a gene encoding for a natural pesticide

Genetic Modification vs Traditional Breeding

Examples of GM Crops/Foods

 

Introduction to Genes and GM Foods

Genes are made of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). A gene is a unit of hereditary material, which carries the required information necessary to produce a protein(s) that determines the characteristics of an organism. Plants and animals, from which foods are derived, have thousands of genes in their cells.

Without knowing the exact mechanism, farmers centuries ago used various traditional breeding methods to produce grains and plants which were bigger, tastier or easier to grow. Nowadays, scientists can identify and modify genes controlling specific characteristics using modern biotechnology. With the help of biotechnology, genes can be inactivated more selectively and precisely, or transferred from one organism to another to produce genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Any food which is, or is derived from, these genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is called "GM food".

How to make genetically modified crops with a gene coding for a natural pesticide

1. Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacterium that can produce a natural pesticide called Bt protein

2. The gene coding for the Bt protein is identified and isolated from the bacterium

 

 
 

The gene coding for the Bt protein

 

3. The isolated gene is then combined with a plasmid to form a recombinant DNA by using recombinant DNA techniques

 
 

Recombinant DNA

 
4. The recombinant DNA is put into another species of bacteria for producing more recombinant DNA
 
 
5. The bacteria is incubated with plant cell and the recombinant DNA will be transferred from bacteria to plant cells
 
6. The plant cell develops to a plantlet
 
7. The new plant is tested for the presence of the natural pesticide – the Bt protein. The production of a genetically modified crops is succeeded if the testing result is positive

Genetically modified plant

Genetic Modification vs Traditional Breeding

GENETIC MODIFICATION

TRADITIONAL BREEDING

  • isolate and transfer of well-defined genes
  • introduction of desired genes across the species barrier
  • desired change can be achieved in one generation
  • crossing of thousands of genes at one time
  • gene transfer usually within-species
  • more time consuming in the process of observation and natural selection to achieve the desired characteristics

Examples of GM Crops/Foods

GM foods available on the market come in many forms. They are mostly processed foods. The characteristics of the GM foods currently available on the market are similar to their traditional counterparts, except they may have different GM traits, including lower wastage during production and more resistant to herbicides, insects or viral infection. Some examples of GM foods are –

CROP

GM TRAIT

EXAMPLES OF FOOD PRODUCTS

SOYA BEAN

Herbicide tolerance

soy beverages, tofu, soy oil, soy flour, emulsifiers (i.e. lecithin), and as ingredients in breads, pastries and edible oil

CORN

Insect resistance
Herbicide tolerance

corn oil, flour, sugar or syrup, and as ingredients in snacks, bakery, confectionery and soft drinks

TOMATO

Delay softening of tissue

tomato puree

POTATO

Insect resistance
Virus resistance

potato chips, mashed potato, potato soups and starch
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