What are GMOs all about?

First, what is a GMO exactly? GMO stands for genetically modified organism, and such humans have been making GMOs since the dawn of agriculture. How can this be; farmers have been genetically modifying their crops through natural selection. They are picking certain traits that they want and only breeding with them. Besides this form for selecting genes, the twentieth century form of GMOs has rapidly developed, and formed into a subcategory of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs). With this type of technology, the DNA of an organism is altered by using the genes from other sources to form a new set of genes. This can be broken down into two different organisms transgenic organisms have inserted DNA from a different species; while cisgenic organisms do not have DNA from a different species. The overall goal for GMOs is to increase the fitness of the organism, including drought resistance, insect resistance, cold resistance, fungi resistance, and much more. That goal of increased fitness has started to change in the twentieth century. Now scientists can label proteins with a florescent protein form jellyfish, so that they can be identified. This in return greatly aids research in the mechanisms of diseases and the biological processes in cells. Or, scientists can modify bacteria to make insulin, to aid in diabetes. Still, the predominate reason for GMOs is the increased fitness of the organism. There are five steps to genetically modify an organism’s DNA: 

  • Isolation of genes: Here you identify the genes you would like to insert into another organism and isolate only the DNA for those genes.
  • Incorporation of genes into a vector: You place the DNA into a plasmid, so that your DNA can replicate and a means to transfer to the organism.
  • Transfer of the vector to the organism: You transfer the vector to the host, by either the means of bacterial transformation or a gene gun. Bacterial transformation uses bacteria that affect the host organism as means to insert the new DNA. A gene gun uses microscopic gold pellets which are coated with the vector and then shot into the host.  
  • Transformation of the cells of the organism: This is when the DNA from your vector gets incorporated into the organism’s DNA.
  • Selection of the genetically modified organism: Now you need to know if the organism obtained the genes that you wanted to be inserted, because this whole process is not 100%. Selection is performed by either screen for the genes using DNA probes or when you inserted the gene into the plasmid, you could have added an antibiotic resistant gene as well. That way, you can use an antibiotic on your samples and only the living samples will have the genes you wanted.