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Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)

updated: July 13, 2024


GMO (short for “genetically modified organism”) is a plant, animal or microbe in which one or more changes have been made to the genome, typically using high-tech genetic engineering, in an attempt to alter the characteristics of an organism. Genes can be introduced, enhanced or deleted within a species, across species or even across kingdoms. GMOs may be used for a variety of purposes, such as making human insulin, producing fermented beverages and developing pesticide resistance in crop plants.


GMO, genetically modified organism. Genetic modifications are critical in the laboratory for understanding biological function and disease.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith, Ph.D.

Former Program Director, Genome Technology Program

Division of Genome Sciences