With all the concerns about safety with the foods being produced these days the term GMO – or Genetically Modified Organism – has become commonly used. To be entirely correct, though, we should be using ‘GEO’ – Genetically Engineered Organism’ — instead.
A genetically modified organism is not identical to its parent, which pretty much covers most living things on this planet that are created by more than one parent — that are not clones. Mixed genes of two or more parents modify the genetics, whether in people, animals or plants. Hybrids, which by literal definition are GMOs have been an important part of the green industry for a long, long time and are not the focus of current concerns. In short, it is a fairly broad term that encompasses non-issues as well as those that are being highly debated.
Genetically engineered life forms or hormones are created by people in a laboratory where genetic material, mostly DNA, from unnatural and likely unrelated sources are joined together. A GEO is a type of GMO, but a GMO is not necessarily a GEO.
In gardening, there are many questions about the creation of genetically engineered plants and their safety. Due to questionable business practices of some of the large companies developing them the public is starting to understand there are safety questions regarding how development is done and long term resulting effects. How much research is really being devoted to the welfare of humanity? Are we creating monster plants — side effects that can endanger the natural balance of food production — and more? Are we developing plants to contain insecticides or fungicides that could be toxic to people and animals simply for the sake of more profitable mass production? Should government control these issues — or can government be trusted? Or who should police the developers and the producers of GEOs? Or should business simply be allowed free use of all technology in a civilization based on capitalism where profits are rewarded no matter how they are gained. These are questions that are likely to continue to rage on.
In the meantime, we can always use the correct terms of GEO and GMO in our debates. Or not!