I am interested in learning about GMO. The topic is so wrapped in controversy, that it's hard to find a good book that introduces the basic concepts involved. I went through various university websites, but couldn't find any lecture notes on the topic. I don't know, is it too broad a topic? Is there even a book called Introduction to GMO? Maybe that's the problem. I am interested in a book that tells you about how gene manipulation is done. How do biology students get introduced to this concept? I hope the question is not too general.

  • $\begingroup$ To be honest I don't remember being introduced to this at all in the classroom. I remember 1 lab in genetics where we transformed E. coli with GFP. Everything else I had to learn in the lab doing research at the undergraduate and graduate level. $\endgroup$
    – user137
    Feb 20, 2015 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ @user137 Hmm, that would be a little troublesome. There must be some book that consolidates all the basic knowledge on the topic. For example, if I want to learn about Quantum Mechanics, I go look for an introductory text. Am I making a wrong analogy? $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2015 at 21:06
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    – L.B.
    Feb 20, 2015 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ This is something that is being introduced to me in high school biology; although there hasn't been a major emphasis on it. $\endgroup$
    – L.B.
    Feb 20, 2015 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ @user137 Oh ok. I didn't think about it that way. That exlains why my search for lecture notes was futile. $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2015 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


I too had difficulty finding any textbooks or notes that focused solely on genetic engineering. However, after some rather intense looking, I did come across several textbooks that may be helpful. I wasn't sure how basic of a text you were looking for but I'm hoping college level is okay because that is all I have been able to find.

The first book was An Introduction to Genetic Engineering by Dr. Desmond S.T. Nicholl.

Another was Principals of Gene Manipulation and Genomics by Sandy B. Primrose.

If you need a more basic biology text for reference, I would recommend Miller & Levine Biology by Prentice Hall (Pearson Prentice Hall). Also, you could do a quick-study on genetics on Khan Academy - Crash Course: Biology and Ecology.

I hope this information was helpful for you!

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    $\begingroup$ I'll go the library and check these books out, see if I understand them. Yes, I do need to brush up my knowledge of basic biology. $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2015 at 22:09

Before going into the trouble of reading a textbook on GMOs, ask yourself if you truly understand what the "controversy" is all about? I'll restrain the following comment to GMO crops (as I strongly feel it is in that area that the hysteria whipped up by a public that is poorly educated in science harms society the most).

The public perception often seems to be fall somewhere in between these two extremes: "crazy scientists insert genes from jellyfish into [crop], making a jelly-[crop]-fish...which is just weird/wrong and must therefore be opposed" or "evil big corporation inserts bad genes into plants, which can then escape into the wild, transmit their bad genes into all other plants, and unleash..."...err...zombie plants?

However, I would suggest that a lot of people are blissfully unaware that MOST of our cash crops have been heavily genetically modified, through millenia of domestication, hybridisation and selection.

For example, durum wheat (commonly used in making semolina and pasta) is an artificial wheat crop, created sometime around 9000 years ago by farmers who crossed two different species of grass crops and selected for a hybrid polyploid plant that had favourable characteristics.

The modern maize plant is another artificial organism created many millenia ago by mesoamericans through hybridization and artifical selection, two of the traditional genetic modification tools available to early farmers.

The apple is a hybrid plant created through crossing of two different species of plants....again done at the dawn of civilization.

I suspect most people who are vehemently opposed to GMO technology are ignorant of the history of farming, let alone the science behind GMO.


Anyway, to answer your question, the "concepts" behind gene manipulation are very basic molecular biology techniques, applied in this context at improving the biochemistry of the organism. Therefore, a good place to start would be a basic textbook such as "Molecular Biology of the Cell" by Alberts or something akin. But a basic botanical textbook on crops would be just as beneficial, in my humble opinion.

  • $\begingroup$ I mentioned controversy, because whenever I type the word GMO in google, I get overwhelmed by the amount of conflicting information on the topic of safety of GMO. I am not interested in that aspect. Nor in the politics involved. I just want to learn the subject because I feel like I am interested in it. $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2015 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough, but my point is that there shouldn't be any controversy about a subject matter that we have been engaging in, and benefitting from, for millenia.... $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2015 at 8:33

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