Terms and definitions

Technology involving the use of biological organisms or parts of organisms. Genetic engineering (or gene technology) is biotechnology, but biotechnology need not to be genetic engineering. One example of biotechnology is the brewing of beer, in which an organism (yeast) is used in the fermentation process.

Cell fusion
The merging of two or more cells.

A thread-like package in the nucleus of a cell, consisting of one long string of DNA. This string contains genes and other DNA. Different organisms have different numbers of chromosomes: humans for example have 46, while wheat has 42.

1. The replication or multiplication of a DNA molecule, cell or organism, resulting in copies that are identical to the original DNA molecule, cell or organism.

2. The insertion of DNA fragments into another DNA molecule (vector) by means of recombinant DNA techniques and the making of multiple copies of the combined material by incorporating it into a cell in which it can replicate.

A certain type of transfer of genetic material between two bacteria which occurs naturally. The resulting bacterium is not classed as a GMO, provided that neither of the bacteria is a GMO to begin with.

Deoxyribonucleic acid, the genetic material of the great majority of organisms, apart from certain viruses.

EC Directives
The member states of the European Union have adopted two directives on genetically modified organisms. Directive 90/219/EEC, amended by Directive 98/81/EC, is concerned with the contained use of genetically modified micro-organisms (GMMs). Directive 2001/18/EC deals with the deliberate release into the environment and placing on the market of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The member states  legislation on genetic engineering has been brought into line with these directives.

The functional and physical unit of heredity from parent to offspring. Genes are specific sequences of genetic material, which often contain the information needed to produce a specific protein.

Genetic engineering (gene technology)
Techniques to study or alter the genes (genetic material) of an organism.

Genetic material
The material in a cell which contains the genetic code of an organism. It usually consists of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), although in certain viruses it may also be composed of RNA (ribonucleic acid).

The totality of genes in a cell.

Hybrid DNA
DNA from different organisms which is combined outside the cell by means of a genetic modification technique.

Hybridoma cell (hybridoma)
The result of fusion of a special type of cell, a lymphocyte, which plays an active part in immunity, with a type of cancer cell, a myeloma. The purpose of the procedure is to produce identical antibodies (known as monoclonal antibodies).

Genetic material that has been introduced into a recipient organism with the help of a vector or by some other technique.

In vitro
Refers to an experiment or similar process in an artificial environment, e.g. a test tube. In vitro is the opposite of in vivo,  in a living organism , i.e. in a natural environment.

Injection (in this context, of nucleic acid) into tissue, e.g. muscle or stem tissue.

Marker gene
Gene used to facilitate the selection of organisms that have acquired desirable characters as a result of gene transfer achieved by genetic engineering. Can also be used to distinguish GMOs in a mixture of non-modified organisms and GMOs.

Injection (in this context, of nucleic acid) directly into a cell.

Method designed to induce mutations in genetic material.  Classical  mutagenesis comprises physical and chemical methods, while modern methods involve genetic engineering.

Biological entity capable of replication or of transferring genetic material (chapter 13, section 3, Environmental Code).

Condition in which a cell or organism has more than two complete sets of chromosomes. Humans have two sets, 2 x 23 (46) chromosomes, while wheat, for example, has 6 sets, 6 x 7 (42) chromosomes.

A group of individuals of a species inhabiting a given area. Individuals belonging to one population have a considerably higher probability of reproducing with each other than with individuals from another population. Often individuals from the same population are genetically more similar to one another than to individuals from another population.

Recipient organism
An organism that has received foreign genetic material; also known as the host organism or simply the recipient. Can also be referred to as the parental organism.

Under section 3 of the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Ordinance (SFS 2000:271), the term  self-cloning  means the removal of nucleic acid from an organism and the reinsertion of all or part of that nucleic acid into the same organism, with or without prior enzymic or mechanical steps. It is assumed that no nucleic acid from another organism is introduced, and that neither the organism nor the nucleic acid is recombinant.

Transfer of DNA between bacteria with the help of bacteriophages (viruses which infect bacteria). This is classed as a natural process, provided that neither the bacteriophages nor the bacteria contain recombinant DNA.

Transfer of DNA between micro-organisms. Can occur naturally in certain cases, but in others constitutes genetic modification. The term is also used for the transfer of DNA to other organisms than micro-organisms and using other methods.

Transgenic organism
Organism that has received genetic material from another species; an alternative term for a GMO. Is normally used together with the name of the species, e.g. transgenic mice.

A vector is used to transfer foreign DNA to recipient cells. Examples of vectors are modified viruses, bacterial plasmids and artificial chromosomes.

Infectious, short RNA structures which resemble viruses in that they cannot multiply without a host cell, but are much smaller and have no protein coat.