What is a GMO ?


GMO are living organisms whose gene pool has been modified by men to give them new proprieties.

The technique used, called transgenesis, allows them to transgress « the species barrier » and create organisms which would have never excited in nature. 

GMO can be found in plants, animals or micro-organisms and are used in many areas: Principally in medical, industrial and agricultural sectors and in the food processing industry.

Transgenic Plants

The main attributes given to transgenic plants currently commercialized are:

  • Resistance to insects

  • Tolerance to herbicides

  • Resistance to virus

  • Delayed maturing

  • Increased nutritional value


About 70% of GMO are herbicide resistants, 20% produce pesticides, and some combine both characteristics.

Soy accounts for 60% of GMO crops, while corn accounts for around 20%, cotton 10% and canola 5%. More than 80% of GMO cultivated are intended to feed livestock.

Quick History...

  • 1953 : Two americans researchers discovered the structure of DNA molecule (double-helix molecule which is the support of organisms’ hereditary informations)
  • 1960: The genetic code is deciphered

  • End of the 70’s: Transgenesis process is perfected

  • 1978: In order to produce human insulin, a human gene coding for insulin is introduce in the bacteria Escherichia Coli.

  • 1983: The first transgenic plant is created in laboratories: A gene resisting to antibiotics is introduce in a tobacco plant.

  • 1993: Monsanto registers a patent for its first GMO plants able to resist Roundup pesticide: It's called Roundup Ready soy.

  • 1994: The first transgenic plant (a tomato with delayed maturity) is commercialized in the US.

Some other things

Be to careful not to get confused…


Most fruits and vegetables that we consume are hybrids. Hybridization is a technique used to genetically enhance the quality of plants: Plants from the same varieties are combined and hybrids with interesting characteristics are selected and combined again … so there are not GMO.


Transgenisis is not the only technique...

Mutagenisis and cell fusion processes are also used to create transgenic plants, but GMO produced with these techniques are not submitted to the same regulation. In Europe, and in many other countries, they do not need special labeling, monitoring or authorizations. Moreover there are very difficult to identify even with genetic examinations.

According to the association OGM dangers, “80% of cabbages come from cell fusion and so do most of canola.”

Patents on the living

Multinational companies which commercialized GMO register patents to protect them. Farmers cannot replant their crops after harvesting otherwise they are fined. They have to buy the seeds and the products to protect the plants (the most cultivated GMO in the world are plants able to resist herbicides produce by the same company) every year.

Genetically modified animals

Patents for transgenic livestock have already been registered. Genetically modified salmon is currently being approved in the US.

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