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Fact Finding

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Check out these fascinating facts about genetically modified organisms

Genes are lengths of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that are present in the nucleus of every cell.

Human beings have about 30,000 genes.

Biotechnology makes use of living organisms or their components, such as enzymes, to make products that include wine, cheese, beer, and yoghurt.

Genetically modified crops look just like their traditional counterparts, but they have been engineered to possess special characteristics with the aim to make them better.

It takes ten years to develop a new genetically modified crop.

The first plant that was modified by genetic engineering was produced in a laboratory in 1984.

The first commercially grown genetically modified food crop was a tomato called the FlavrSavr in 1992. Considered to have a poor flavour, it never sold well and was off the market by 1997.

Locating genes for important traits - such as those conferring insect resistance or desired nutrients - is one of the most limiting steps in the process of making GMOs.

Genes can be transferred from genetically modified crops to related plants by cross breeding - a process called hybridisation.

Most of the insulin in the world is produced with the aid of GMOs. In the early 1980s a human gene for insulin production was inserted into the DNA of the bacteria E coli. With a much lower manufacturing cost, this process completely overtook the traditional source of insulin i.e. extraction from the pancreas of cows and pigs.

The US is the world leader in biotech crops, with GM varieties accounting for 75% of US soybeans, some 70% of US cotton and 35% of US corn.

The estimated global area of approved biotech crops for 2004 was 81.0 million hectares.

Approximately 8.25 million farmers in 17 countries grew biotech crops in 2004, up from 7 million farmers in 18 countries in 2003.

In 2004, the 14 main countries that grow considerable amounts of biotech crops, were: USA with 59% of global total, followed by Argentina with 20%, Canada 6%, Brazil 6%, China 5%, Paraguay 2%, India 1%, South Africa 1%, Uruguay <1%, Australia <1%, Romania <1%, Mexico <1%, Spain <1%, and the Philippines <1%.



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