Green genetic engineering

The use of genetic methods for agriculture is called “green genetic engineering”. Genetic engineering is part of biotechnology, which is a generic term for an extremely large number of processes, products and methods.

Modern biotechnology uses the findings and techniques of molecular biology in a targeted manner and uses genetic engineering applications to modify the genetic constitution of organisms. A distinction is made between its use in medicine (red genetic engineering), in industry, including the food sector (white or grey genetic engineering), and in agriculture (green genetic engineering).

Green genetic engineering is almost exclusively used in plant breeding. At present, most genetically modified plants cultivated worldwide have been modified to make them resistant to insects or tolerant to certain herbicides. Other breeding goals include increasing the yield potential, improving resistance to diseases, heat, drought, cold or floods, improving product quality, for instance concerning vitamins or fatty acids, and developing plants that are more suitable for the production of industrial raw materials or that can be used in the production of medicines.

The sale, trade and cultivation of genetically modified plants are subject to European legislation. Marketing and cultivation require authorisations. Food and feed containing genetically modified plants must be labelled accordingly. The main purpose of the European and German legislation governing genetic engineering is the protection of humans, animals and the environment against possible negative impacts of genetic engineering. Anyone who wants to release or market genetically modified plants in Germany must undergo a comprehensive and thorough examination procedure. The authorisation of genetically modified plants is decided on a case-by-case basis based on current safety assessments.

A close-up shot of young cereal plants on the field
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Overview of topics

New molecular biology technologies

The terms “new molecular biology techniques” (NMTs), or else “new breeding techniques” (NBTs) outline a broad range of technologies that are in some cases clearly different from classical genetic engineering.


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