What is in this article?:
Industry experts help settle the battle over semantics (GE, GM, GMO?) so we all can focus on what really matters—the battle on removing these biotech foods from agriculture.
Here are the most commonly used terms surrounding genetic engineering explained according to regulations, the biotechnology industry and organic supporters.
Genetically Engineered (GE)
In a Sept. 1996 report on biotechnology [PDF], the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) defined genetically engineered as "made with techniques that alter the molecular or cell biology of an organism by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes."
The NOSB makes recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) about whether a substance should be allowed or prohibited in organic production. It outlined several GE practices in the report, including recombinant DNA, cell fusion, micro- and macro-encapsulation, gene deletion and doubling, introducing a foreign gene and changing the positions of genes. However, according to NOSB, GE does not include breeding, conjugation, fermentation, hybridization, in-vitro fertilization and tissue culture.
The USDA's current definition of genetic engineering is "manipulation of an organism's genes by introducing, eliminating or rearranging specific genes using the methods of modern molecular biology, particularly those techniques referred to as recombinant DNA techniques." The Biotechnology Industry Organization, the world's largest biotechnology organization, also refers to this regulatory definition in its literature.
Internationally, genetic engineering is defined largely by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, an organization formed in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization topromote coordination of all food standards work by international governmental and non-governmental organizations. Codex's definition [PDF] is similar to the United States' definition: "Genetically engineered/modified organisms, and products thereof, are produced through techniques in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination." Codex also says GE organisms do not include organisms resulting from transduction.
The Center for Food Safety, an organization which works to promote organic and sustainable agriculture, most commonly uses the term genetically engineered, but "in our materials we use the same definition and then suggest that the abbreviation could be GE, GM and GMO," said Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director for the Center.
The Center's definition states: "agricultural biotechnology refers to the use of recombinant DNA techniques and related tools of biotechnology to genetically engineer crops used in the production of food, feed, and fiber. The resulting products are referred to interchangeably as 'transgenic' or 'genetically engineered' crops and foods."