An organism is any living animal or plant including a bacterium or virus that is capable of reproduction. Living things are made of building blocks called cells. Higher animals are made up of hundreds of thousands of cells (many of which are specialized, such as muscle cells and nerve cells) while bacteria consist of a single cell. At the centre of each cell are long chains of a complex chemical, known as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). These DNA chains form the genetic material of the cell. The information encoded on DNA is sub-divided into blocks known as genes.
For centuries crop plants and livestock have been cross-bred such that the genetic make-up of offspring has been altered to select for desired traits and /or qualities. Traditional plant and animal breeding techniques require that the individual species involved are the same or closely related. However, the discovery of genetic engineering techniques has made it possible to introduce, delete or enhance particular traits in an organism either by inserting genes from another organism or by otherwise altering its genetic make-up. Genetically modified organisms are organisms whose genes have been artificially altered to modify their characteristics in some way or another and are defined in EU Legislation as ‘those in which the genetic material is altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating or natural recombination’.
Where GMOs comprise bacteria, viruses, viroids and animal and plant cells in culture they are referred to as Genetically Modified Micro-Organisms or GMMs.
Where GMOs comprise GM plants or GM animals otherwise known as transgenic plants or transgenic animals, they are referred to as GMOs.
The Environment and Resource Authority is the competent authority in Malta that implements GMO Regulations on:
- The contained use of Genetically Modified Organisms
- The deliberate release of Genetically Modified Organisms into the environment
- The transboundary movement of Genetically Modified Organisms
For further information, contact our GMO team on [email protected] or by phone on 2292 3500.