OVERVIEW FROM WIKIPEDIA:
Editor's Note: This is an area where Wikipedia falls short and gives little attention to the health or environmental affects of the industry practices.
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. The exact definition of a genetically modified organism and what constitutes genetic engineering varies, with the most common being an organism altered in a way that "does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination". A wide variety of organisms have been genetically modified (GM), from animals to plants and microorganisms. Genes have been transferred within the same species, across species(creating transgenic organisms), and even across kingdoms. New genes can be introduced, or endogenous genes can be enhanced, altered, or knocked out.
Creating a genetically modified organism is a multi-step process. Genetic engineers must isolate the gene they wish to insert into the host organism and combine it with other genetic elements, including a promoter and terminator region and often a selectable marker. A number of techniques are available for inserting the isolated gene into the host genome. Recent advancements using genome editing techniques, notably CRISPR, have made the production of GMOs much simpler. Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen made the first genetically modified organism in 1973, a bacterium resistant to the antibiotic kanamycin. The first genetically modified animal, a mouse, was created in 1974 by Rudolf Jaenisch, and the first plant was produced in 1983. In 1994, the Flavr Savr tomato was released, the first commercialized genetically modified food. The first genetically modified animal to be commercialized was the GloFish (2003) and the first genetically modified animal to be approved for food use was the AquAdvantage salmon in 2015.
Bacteria are the easiest organisms to engineer and have been used for research, food production, industrial protein purification (including drugs), agriculture, and art. There is potential to use them for environmental purposes or as medicine. Fungi have been engineered with much the same goals. Viruses play an important role as vectors for inserting genetic information into other organisms. This use is especially relevant to human gene therapy. There are proposals to remove the virulent genes from viruses to create vaccines. Plants have been engineered for scientific research, to create new colors in plants, deliver vaccines, and to create enhanced crops. Genetically modified cropsare publicly the most controversial GMOs, in spite of having the most human health and environmental benefits.The majority are engineered for herbicide tolerance or insect resistance. Golden rice has been engineered with three genes that increase its nutritional value. Other prospects for GM crops are as bioreactors for the production of biopharmaceuticals, biofuels, or medicines.
Animals are generally much harder to transform and the vast majority are still at the research stage. Mammals are the best model organisms for humans, making ones genetically engineered to resemble serious human diseases important to the discovery and development of treatments. Human proteins expressed in mammals are more likely to be similar to their natural counterparts than those expressed in plants or microorganisms. Livestock is modified with the intention of improving economically important traits such as growth rate, quality of meat, milk composition, disease resistance, and survival. Genetically modified fish are used for scientific research, as pets, and as a food source. Genetic engineering has been proposed as a way to control mosquitos, a vector for many deadly diseases. Although human gene therapy is still relatively new, it has been used to treat genetic disorders such as severe combined immunodeficiency and Leber's congenital amaurosis.
Many objections have been raised over the development of GMOs, particularly their commercialization. Many of these involve GM crops and whether food produced from them is safe and what impact growing them will have on the environment. Other concerns are the objectivity and rigor of regulatory authorities, contamination of non-genetically modified food, control of the food supply, patenting of life, and the use of intellectual property rights. Although there is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, GM food safety is a leading issue with critics. Gene flow, impact on non-target organisms, and escape are the major environmental concerns. Countries have adopted regulatory measures to deal with these concerns. There are differences in the regulation for the release of GMOs between countries, with some of the most marked differences occurring between the US and Europe. Key issues concerning regulators include whether GM food should be labeled and the status of gene-edited organisms.