What Are Genetically Modified Organisms?

As scientists discovered how genes function in the human and other various organisms, they have also developed the technology of taking genetic material out of one organism and transferring it into another organism in effort to express new traits that would not occur naturally.

One of the first examples of a genetically modified organism was in 1978 when the company Genetech transferred the gene for human insulin into an E. coli strain.  These E. coli cells were able to produce insulin themselves which could be collected and used for diabetes treatments.

Since that time many other organisms have been genetically modified including other bacteria, mice, fish, and plants.


The PBS website has an interactive dinner table activity:
Click on the different foods on the table to learn about common foods that have been genetically modified.

"Guess What’s Coming to Dinner?" Nova Online. 2001. Public Broadcasting Service. 10 December 2008.

Maize Chromosome Link Left: An activity of a corn (maize genome). Clicking on regions of each chromosome will show you the gene and physical trait located at that locus.

 “Putting DNA to Work – Maize Mutants.” Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences. 2008.