Genetics Basic Concepts



GMO is the acronym for “genetically modified organism.” A GMO is a living organism, a microorganism, plant or animal, whose genetic material has undergone a specific change through a process called transgenesis. 

Think of transgenesis as a kind of microscopic surgery used to add, remove or change a gene directly in the DNA of an organism at the time of conception. The goal is to change one or more of its characteristics. For example, we can create varieties of plants that are more resistant and more productive in order to feed more people.

In Canada, both GMOs and standard agricultural products are governed by the same rules. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Health Canada and Environment Canada share the responsibility of approving GMOs. The federal government considers that approved GMOs are equivalent to standard products and therefore safe for human consumption.

Almost all GMOs approved in Canada are plants or microorganisms. For example, Bt corn, a GMO used as animal feed, is resistant to a pest that attacks crops, while a genetically modified bacteria produces human insulin used to treat diabetes. 

The only genetically modified animal approved for sale in Canada is an accelerated growth salmon.

To learn more about GMOs (French only):