[ jee-em-oh ]
/ ˈdʒiˈɛmˈoʊ /
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genetically modified organism: an organism or microorganism whose genetic material has been altered by means of genetic engineering.


Are GMOs Good Or Bad?

GMO foods have been around since the 1980s ... so why don't we know if they are good or bad yet?

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Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Words nearby GMO

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is a GMO?

GMO is an abbreviation for genetically modified organism. A GMO is any living thing that has had its genetics altered through genetic engineering.

Typically, a GMO is created by first inserting a gene into the DNA of a single cell of an organism. Next, the scientist will stimulate the growth of this cell so that it quickly replicates. Eventually, the cell will replicate to such a point that all of the organism’s cells contain the modified gene that was originally inserted.

A GMO can be any living thing, from a bacteria to a cow. The GMOs that most people are familiar with are genetically modified crops. Farmers will grow corn or other crops that have been modified to be resistant to chemicals like herbicides or have been modified to repel insects. GMOs can be appealing to farmers because they are easier to grow and can lower farmers’ costs.

Besides plants, organisms such as bacteria and farm animals have been turned into GMOs. Bacteria have been modified to produce helpful chemicals such as insulin, and farm animals have had their genes modified to protect them from deadly diseases that would endanger large groups of animals.

Why is GMO important?

The first records of the abbreviation GMO come from around 1989. The actual science of genetically modifying living creatures goes back earlier than this. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the first GMO it approved was a bacteria that produced human insulin in 1982.

Since GMOs have been introduced, many people have been concerned that GMOs or foods made from them could be a risk to human health. Scientists have studied this question closely, and the World Health Organization has declared that GMOs pose no health risks when eaten by humans.

Regardless, countries have taken steps to regulate GMOs. In the United States, food, animals, and drugs that are or are made from GMOs are regulated by the FDA. GMOs not used in food, such as those used in pesticides, are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Public opinion on GMOs is mixed, as most Americans are unfamiliar with both the process behind GMOs and the scientific position on their health risks.

Performing genetic engineering on humans is a highly controversial topic and is outright illegal in over 40 countries, including Canada and the entirety of western Europe. While human GMOs are not acceptable right now, the possibility has often been explored in popular culture, as in the X-Men series of comic books.

Did you know … ?

The scientific community was shocked and outraged when Chinese researcher He Jiankui announced he had performed genetic engineering on a human embryo in 2018, effectively creating a human GMO. The Chinese government sentenced him to three years in prison after it had discovered that He had committed numerous ethical violations in order to perform his experiment.

What are real-life examples of GMO?

GMOs are still a divisive subject, especially because of a lot of misinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding them.

Quiz yourself!

Which of the following could be a GMO?

A. a plant
B. bacterium
C. an animal
D. all of the above

How to use GMO in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for GMO


abbreviation for
genetically modified organism
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Medical definitions for GMO


genetically modified organism
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Scientific definitions for GMO


Abbreviation of genetically modified organism
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for GMO


The abbreviation for genetically modified organism. A GMO is an organism whose genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there.

notes for GMO

A high percentage of food crops, such as corn and soybeans, are genetically modified.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.