Where can I find information about genetic modification?
Modified Tomato Genetically Food Injection Genetic by artursfoto on pixabay.
Entry last updated: 28/04/21
Genetic modification (GM) takes place when selected genes are taken from one organism and transferred to another organism to change its characteristics. This process is often called genetic engineering (GE) which is is type of GM that can be done naturally or artificially. In this entry we'll show you where to find information about how genetic modification works, the technologies involved, New Zealand laws around genetic modification and the controversy about its safety and benefits.
What is genetic modification?
Genetic modification, genetic engineering, manipulation, editing, splicing, biotechnology and frankenfoods! There is a lot of confusing terminology and conflicting information about genetic modification. The websites below will help explain the basics of GM.
Science Learning Hub is a website for New Zealand students and the information is written by scientists and educators.
- Use the search bar to search for 'genetic modification'.
- There is a short video that explains genetic modification.
On this New Zealand website, local experts provide information for journalists on science-related issues.
- Search for 'genetic modification'
- Choose articles like Redefining genetic modification – Expert reaction and Genetic modification explained.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on this website. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.
This is an EPIC resource. EPIC is a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this.
- Search for 'genetic modification' to find the article explaining genetically modified organism (GMO).
- Search for 'genetic engineering' and choose genetic engineering to read about the history, processes and techniques including recombinant DNA technology.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.
Gene editing technologies
Gene editing technologies like CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) systems are used to change genes encoded in DNA, using a method called gene splicing.
This is another EPIC resource and it has lots of information about genetically modified organisms, genetic engineering and gene therapy.
- To find information on these topics go to Browse topics and select from the alphabetical list.
- Search for 'gene editing' to find the information about the gene editing process and technologies like CRISPR technology.
This New Zealand Aotearoa website supports the learning of science and technology by providing information on current issues for students and teachers.
- Go to the What's happening tab.
- Select 'Major issues and projects'.
- Choose Gene editing in Aotearoa or Gene editing technologies including CRISPR.
Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the Who we are link on this website. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.
New Zealand Legislation
In New Zealand Aotearoa we have laws that limit what we are legally allowed to do with GM and what's prohibited. One of these laws is the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 which covers genetic modification in New Zealand. The Act itself is quite long, but it is nicely summarised on the following website.
This government organisation is responsible for caring for the environment and as part of this they administer the laws around genetic modification in New Zealand.
- Go to the tab 'More'.
- Choose 'Hazards'.
- Select New organisms.
This section includes the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification. This commission was formed to look into and report on issues about genetic modification in New Zealand Aotearoa. You can read the full report and the government's response to it.
- The report is 473 pages, if you don't want to read the full document, take a look at the Executive Summary at the start of the report. An executive summary 'summarises' or gives you the key points of a report.
- You can also use the Publications Search section of the website to find other pamphlets and reports on GM in New Zealand. Try a basic search using the keywords 'Genetic Modification'.
Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.
Controversy (advantages and risks)
Genetically modified organisms have the potential for both good and bad impacts on the economy, the environment, human health and medicine. There are many different opposing viewpoints on the benefits and risks. Some of these are:
Pest control: using GM to control or eradicate introduced pests such as possums and wasps.
GM in the food chain: genetically modifying food crops.
Gene therapy: genetic modification of humans, or medicines, to treat or cure genetic diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, or Haemophilia.
Explore these GM controversies as well as others using the EPIC resources below.
This website has news articles, statistics and other information about GM and other important global issues including the benefits and risks of Genetically Modified Foods.
Opposing Viewpoints has some great essays arguing both for, and against, Genetic Modification.
- Search for 'genetic modification' or
- browse issues to find headings like Genetic engineering and Genetically modified food.
Tips: Opposing Viewpoints in context brings up lots of different types of results, news articles, primary sources etc. To narrow your search results down to just the viewpoint essays, click on the word Viewpoints at the top of the result list.
Māori and Genetic Modification
Genetic modification also has spiritual and cultural implications.
- Revisit this website to read the page Treaty of Waitangi and new organisms.
- As part of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification a number of hui were held. The Report on the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification includes the responses from these hui and lists some of the issues raised, like intellectual property rights and protecting flora and fauna.
- Go to Appendix 3, Section Four: Māori Consultation, sub-section 4.2 Analysis of cultural, spiritual and religious issues for Maori raised in Public Meetings.
Tips: This report is in a PDF format. You can use the text search box to search for specific words such as 'tikanga' in PDF documents. You can usually get to the text search box by clicking on the magnifying glass icon at the top of the page. Another way to open a text search box is to use the Ctrl, F.
Tips: When looking for Māori viewpoints, try using Te Reo Māori words in your searches. For example you could try Tikanga, mātauranga Māori, Whakapapa, Kaitiakitanga, Mauri.
Your school library or local public library may also have books. Here are some suggested titles:
- Genetic modification: should humans control nature? By Leon Gray.
- Genetically modified crops and food edited by Natalie Regis.
- Genetically modified foods By Michael Centore.