Transgenics (often referred to as plant biotechnology) is the application of scientific knowledge to transfer beneficial genetic traits from one species to another to enhance or protect an organism. Leaders in plant biotechnology's development are applying scientific processes at the gene level to affect expressed and inherited traits.
If you have questions about a biotechnology term, consult the Glossary of Food & Agricultural Biotechnology Terms compiled by the International Food Information Council or the Glossary of Agricultural Biotechnology Terms compiled by the USDA.
Traditional plant breeding involves the transfer of pollen containing the gene for a desired trait from one crop variety to another. Eventually, the desired trait will appear in a new family of plants. But, continually combining genes in this way takes years to yield new varieties, and it is less precise. Biotechnology helps scientists be more precise and efficient in isolating genes and developing new varieties of plants, taking years away from the lengthy, trial-and-error traditional breeding process.
Plant biotechnology can be applied to produce two varieties of enhancements: transgenic or intraspecies. These words refer to whether scientists are working within one species of plants — intraspecies — or across several species — transgenic. For example, adding a pest-resistant trait to yellow corn from white corn is an intraspecies enhancement, while adding the same pest-resistant trait to wheat is transgenic.