Genetic modification (GM)
What is GM?
GM, which can stand for genetic modification or genetically modified,
What is the point of genetic modification?
There are three reasons that scientists genetically modify plants:
a) Herbicides are often used to kill weeds in fields of crops
but they can
also affect the growth of the crops they are intended to protect. By
genetic modification, a gene with a particular characteristic, such
to a specific herbicide, can be introduced into a crop plant. When
b) Genetic modification can be used to reduce the amount of pesticide needed by altering a plant’s DNA so it can resist the particular insect pests that attack it.
c) Genetic modification can also be used to give crops immunity to
plant viruses or to improve the nutritional value of a plant.
Two examples of genetically modified crops:
1) Insecticide sweet corn
Scientists have genetically modified sweet corn so that it produces a poison which kills harmful insects. This means the farmer no longer needs to fight insects with insecticides. The genetically modified corn is called Bt-corn, because the insect-killing gene in the plant comes from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis
The farmer no longer has to use insecticide to kill insects, so the
surrounding environment is no longer exposed to large amounts of
2) Long-lasting tomatoes
Long-lasting, genetically modified tomatoes came on to the market in 1994 and were the first genetically modified food available to consumers. The genetically modified tomato produces less of the substance that causes tomatoes to rot, so remains firm and fresh for a long time.
Scientists today can genetically modify tomatoes without inserting
genes for antibiotic resistance. However the first genetically
modified tomatoes contained genes that made them resistant to antibiotics. Doctors
and vets use antibiotics to fight infections. These genes spread
animals and people so doctors would have difficulties fighting
Project originally funded by EU and Dfid with support from Tower Hamlets LEA