In the past, GMO referred to organisms whose genetic makeup was the result of cross breeding. Since the discovery of recombinant DNA techniques, the term has come to refer to organisms which are genetically engineered using recombinant DNA technology. The purpose of this gene tinkering to to get the organism to generate and display new traits. The first GMO, created in 1973, was a form of E. coli that expressed the salmonella gene. The first potentially useful GMO followed quickly in 1978, another form of E. coli, but this one produced the protein insulin.
Since these humble beginnings, GMOs have become a multi-billion dollar business operated by multi-national companies. Transgenic, another word for GMOs made using recombinant DNA methods, animals like mice and fish have been created in labs. Initially, most GMOs were made to answer questions in biology and medicine. Next came the use of GMOs to produce pharmaceuticals and other aimed at improving health or agriculture. It is this last application, agriculture, which has generated the most resistance.
Genetically modified animals
GloFish are one of the most recognizable products of the GMO revolution. They are a trademarked brand of fluorescent zebrafish. They were originally developed by taking the zebrafish, native of rivers in India and Bangladesh, and inserting it with the green fluorescent protein found in jellyfish. Dr. Zhiyuan Gong and his colleagues at the National University of Singapore. GloFish were the first genetically modified animal to be available for sale as a pet. They were introduced to the U.S. market in 2003, after more than two years of research and consultation with various state and federal agencies. As of January 2007, GloFish were banned in in California following the passage of a regulation banning all genetically modified fish. The fish are also blocked from import to Canada.
The most commonly used animal in biological research are transgenic fruit flies, Drosophila melangaster. These flies are used over other animals for ethical reasons and also because the fly genome is less complex than those of vertebrates. The flies are beneficial to reseachers because about 75 percent of known human disease genes have a recognizable match in the genes of the flies. It's genome was first sequenced and published in 2000.
Genetically modified plants
GM plants have been developed for a number of reasons. They can provide resistance to pests, herbicides or harsh conditions, longer shelflife and increased nutritional value. Since their introduction in 1996, GM crops have dominated the market. Companies such as Monsanto, the leading producer or GE seeds with about 70 percent of the market, generate crops resistant to pests to increase yields. It is GM crops that have garnered the most attention from anti-GMO activists.