Genetic engineering uses DNA technology to alter the genetic makeup of a cell. The most common method involves transfer of genes from one species to another in order to confer specific new desired trait(s) present in the donor species onto the recipient species. After the transferred genes are incorporated into the DNA of the recipient cells, the resultant organism generated from these transgenic cells is a genetically modified organism (GMO). If the genetic modification has been successful, the genetically modified organism will express the desired trait(s).
Genetic engineering has been used widely to confer specific new traits on plants. Genetically engineered plants were first commercially grown in the 1990’s and are most often engineered to be herbicide tolerant and/or insect resistant. Within a decade after introduction, a significant percentage of the corn, soybean, and cotton crop grown in the US was genetically engineered. Under normal circumstances, the process of developing new plant strains with desirable traits using conventional cross breeding methods can take many years. Genetic engineering not only vastly reduces the time it takes to produce new varieties of crops but also allows insertion of traits that can only be obtained from another species.