genetically modified organism

A genetically modified organisms (GMO), or more accurately a Genetically Engineered Organism (GEO), is used to provide a class of legal seed ownership protections which ultimately exists to create profits for seed patent owners. Seeds of this type represent the antithesis of open-pollinated heirloom seeds.

In most legal contexts, a “genetically engineered” plant refers to any plant, plant part or material (including, but not limited to, seeds and pollen) in which the genetic material has been changed through modern biotechnology in a way that does not occur naturally by multiplication or natural recombination, where “modern biotechnology” is understood to mean the application of either of the following:
(1) In vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles.
(2) Fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family that overcome natural physiological reproductive or recombinant barriers and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection.

Since the early 1980s the goal of the largest mainstream seed companies has been to force large scale growers to purchase new seed from them each and every year. This flies in the face of thousands of years of agricultural development in which farmers have saved seed for use in subsequent plantings, and has resulted in pushback efforts like those of the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI).

While seed ownership issues have remained a problem to be addressed at the level of the large scale grower (heirloom seed packets available to home gardeners have remained unencumbered), small scale growers of things like corn have felt the sting of legal actions being brought against them due to the fact that the genetics of their produce had been altered because they were being grown too close to large scale growers of GMO corn. It looks as though the problem of the genetically modified organism and the patenting of seed traits will remain with us for the foreseeable future.