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Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering is the act of changing an organism's original genetic code—the blueprint for its creation. Genetic engineering can be as simple as creating a hybrid of a plant by mixing two related varieties of the same species (like corn hybrids). It can also mean taking genes from one species (a jellyfish) and inserting selected parts into the genes of another species (a rabbit).

One expected benefit of genetically engineered crops is the reduced need for pesticides and herbicides. For example, Bt corn is genetically engineered to produce toxins deadly to the corn borer. Farmers that plant Bt corn don’t have to spray a pesticide to eliminate corn borers. Round-up Ready soybeans are another example. The soybeans are genetically engineered to withstand a herbicide, enabling farmers to make a single pass when spraying for weeds.

Using less pesticide and herbicide means less potential for them to get into waterways. But genetically engineered crops pose risks as well. Some critics think farmers are simply exchanging one risk for another, protecting water quality for the risks genetically engineered crops may pose. (See www.exploremore/ge.)



Explore More: Water Quality
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