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Biotechnology and genetically modified organisms have become buzz words in the media. Everyone seems to have an opinion, but just what are they talking about? Here is small summary of the basic definitions, history and statistics that surround GMOs and biotechnology.

Genetically Modified Organism
History
Facts and Statistics

Genetically Modified Organism

The technology most people think of when they think of a GMO is called gene splicing. The technology consists of adding a piece of DNA or new genes to an organism.(Klee, 2000) A GMO is an organism that has been altered through genetic engineering, which means the changing or relocating of living cells.(Biotechnology: Food..., 1999)
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A Brief History of GMOs

The concept of altering an organism's genes for human benefit goes back over 10,000 years with the beginning of cultivated wheat (Klee, 2000). Farmers have long crossed plants displaying favorable traits in order to produce an improved hybrid. Consequently, almost all of the food that is eaten today is no longer from genetically pure species. Dr. Harry Klee, a professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida who does research on genetic modification, says gene splicing technology was developed in the United States of America around 1983.
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Facts and Statistics

Some estimates say at least 40 percent of the products on American grocery shelves are derived from genetic modification. Many products contain vegetable oils, the majority of which are made with modified corn or soy beans.(Klee, 2000).

As of 1999, 64 varieties of plants were approved by the U.S. and Canadian governments.(Panos, 1999)

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Elizabeth Denlinger elizden@ufl.edu
Copyright 2001