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Glossary

Biotechnology
Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives of these (whether genetically modified or not) to make or modify products or processes for general use.

Chromosome
Strands of DNA that contain genetic information. Each chromosome contains numerous genes.

Clone
A genetically identical copy. The term may be applied to a fragment of DNA, a plasmid (see below) that contains a single fragment of DNA, or a bacterium that contains such a plasmid. It may also apply to larger organisms, such as a plant propagated from a cutting or a pair of identical twins created naturally from a single fertilised egg. Many aphids are (unfertilised) clones of their mother. Clones may also be created artificially by transferring the nucleus of a cell from an animal into a recipient egg.

Conditional release
A class of approval for release of new organisms (including genetically modified organisms), where the release is subject to strict conditions or controls.

Containment
An approval category where a new organism or hazardous substance is restricted to a secure location or facility to prevent escape. This includes, in respect of genetically modified organisms, field testing and large-scale fermentation.

DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid, the chemical that encodes an organism's genetic information and is responsible for the inheritance of traits from one generation to the next. Genes are made up of DNA.

Field test
A contained trial that monitors the behaviour of the organism, under conditions similar to those of the environment into which the organism is likely to be released.

Gene
A sequence of DNA on a chromosome that contains an instruction leading to specific inherited characteristics.

Genetic engineering (GE)
Another term for genetic modification.

Genetic modification (GM)
The use of modern laboratory techniques to alter the genetic material of cells or organisms to make them capable of producing new substances or performing new functions. Also referred to as genetic engineering or genetic manipulation.

Genetically modified organism (GMO)
A plant, animal or micro-organism whose genes have been altered using genetic modification. The foreign material may contain sequences derived from the same or a different species, or it may be synthetic.

Plasmid
A small, usually circular piece of DNA found in bacteria but separate from the bacterial chromosome. Plasmids are important tools in genetic research and are often used to create, and sometimes insert, the genetic modifications.

Release
Under New Zealand law, 'release' of a new organism (including a genetically modified organism) means use in the wider environment, for which permission must be obtained. Release of new organisms in New Zealand may be approved without the requirement of any conditions or controls, or it may be approved with conditions. Overseas, 'release' is taken to mean a commercial application for a genetically modified organism or release onto the market and it may have voluntary or mandatory controls on it.