GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS

Plant crops provide us with food, clothing, and many other important products. Farmers select seeds from the best plants to grow next season. This selective breeding makes plants evolve features that people want them to have – such as heavier rice grains – but it is a slow process. To change faster, crops can be given new features directly from other life forms. Cells take their features from instructions they carry, called genes. Genetic modification (GM) allows us to move a gene from one life form to another.

MOVING GENES

In genetic modification, scientists first identify the gene for the desired feature. They can cut this donor gene from its DNA strand, using chemicals called enzymes as scissors. The gene is kept in one piece and multiplied by inserting it into a bacterium. The bacterium is used to carry the new gene into the target plant, by “infecting” it.

CARRIERS OF GENES

Scientists use plasmids, which are found inside bacteria, to stop donor genes unravelling and to replicate (copy) them. The donor gene is zipped on to the plasmid using chemicals called enzymes.

IMPROVING SHELF LIFE

Tomatoes can be bruised when they are packed and stored. As they ripen, their skins become more delicate and are more easily damaged. Damaged tomatoes quickly begin to rot, because mould can grow on their skins. Scientists have genetically modified tomatoes by adding genes that stop their skins softening as they ripen. This means they are less likely to bruise in storage and be wasted.

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

12 Pumpkin Activities and Crafts for Kids
Pumpkins and gourds are perfect for fall fun and games with the kids. Find the best pumpkin activities, crafts, printables, and recipes to enjoy with your children this Halloween season.

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

15 Best Slow Cooker Meals
Too busy to cook? Try one of these deliciously easy slow cooker meals and have dinner waiting when you get home!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!