Genetically modified organism
A genetically modified organism (GMO, GMO in English) or transgenic organism is one that has artificially, through genetic engineering, undergone gene transfer or modification, resulting in new properties. A genetically modified organism is not considered to have been obtained by cloning if it has not been genetically transferred. Genetically modified organisms can be plant or animal forms of microbial life (whether viruses, bacteria or yeast). The applications of GMOs cover many fields of human activity and especially industry, medicine, agriculture and livestock.
Main stages of development
In 1980, the United States Supreme Court first authorized the patenting of a living organism; it was precisely a transgenic bacterium.
In 1982, the first transgenic animal was obtained, a laboratory rat.
In 1983, the first transgenic plant, an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant, was obtained.
The first transgenic crop, an insecticide-resistant tomato plant, was planted in 1987.
The possibilities are very varied: on the one hand it is a question of obtaining new products or with new characteristics and on the other hand of improving the production process in order to make it more efficient, less polluting and / or at a lower cost.
Biotechnology offers interesting possibilities in the production, for example of polymers, petroleum substitutes, papermaking, biodegradable plastics, etc.
Applications in the field of human health
This is a new way to get molecules that can be faster, more efficient and cheaper than traditional chemical synthesis.
There are some diseases such as diabetes or growth hormone deficiency, which basically consist of the fact that the body is not able to synthesize a hormone. Until a few years ago, the treatment of these diseases was to obtain a similar hormone from animals such as cows and pigs, but not being human was a little different and sometimes caused allergies.
In order not to have problems and to obtain a hormone with characteristics identical to human hormone, it was decided to try to obtain it from transgenic microorganisms.
To achieve this, the gene responsible for the synthesis of the hormone was located in humans, incorporated into a plasmid, which is a circular DNA strand that is not part of the chromosomes and is capable of self-replication. , and was introduced into a microorganism.
It was first made with a bacterium, the most widely used being Escherichia coli, but to no avail, as the bacteria are too simple to synthesize human proteins. It was then incorporated into a yeast, in this case the species used was Saccharomyces cerevisiae, from which it is currently obtained.
The pharmaceutical industry is also conducting research using genetically modified organisms to produce therapeutic proteins. Another line of research is to obtain plants to which a vaccine has been transferred and which, once ingested, the antigens pass to an entire population that would be vaccinated very easily.
The direct modification of human beings for therapeutic purposes, possible in the early stages of the reproductive process, could prevent, among other things, the transmission of hereditary diseases or defects. These manipulations are not currently allowed in any legislation.
Applications in agriculture and livestock
In 2005, transgenic crops occupied about 90 million hectares worldwide, 70% of which is in the United States.
There are about 30 species of cultivated transgenic plants. The main ones are soybeans, corn, rapeseed, peanuts, wheat, cotton, tobacco, transgenic potatoes.