The terms Genetic Engineering (GE) and Genetically Modified Organisim (GMO) are often used interchangeably in the media. However, there is a difference. GE refers to a high-tech genetic engineering processes that are used to incorporate genes from one organism directly into another. This is done by using recombinant DNA techniques that bring together genetic material from different sources to create DNA molecule sequences that would not otherwise occur in nature. One of the most notable examples of GE crops are soybeans, corn, cotton and alfalfa that are herbicide-resistant (Round-Up Ready ®). GE crops are all grown on large acreage under commercial production. At the present time there are no GE seeds that home owners can purchase through garden catalogues or garden centers.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) on the other hand, are organisms that are produced through any type of genetic modification. True, it may be through high tech genetic engineering (which gets the most press), but it may also mean that traditional breeding methods, based on Gregor Mendel’s studies in the late 1800s have been utilized. Many of the cultivars (“cultivated variety”) and hybrids that are popular in our gardens today are the result of this type of breeding. Yes, it may be considered “artificial” to some extent in that these plants are a product of selective breeding. However, the methods used are those that replicate the same type of selections which can also occur in nature.