Making a Genetically Engineered Crop

stages of genetic engineering

 In general there are five different steps required for using biotechnology to creates a new crop variety.  These same steps are used no matter what the crop is.  We will use the example of BT corn for describing each of these five steps.  The soil bacterium, Bacillius thiurengensis, produces an insecticidal protein.  That protein is coded for by a certain gene, one example is cry 1Ab.

  1. All of the DNA from Bacillius thiurengensis, is isolated in a laboratory.
  2. In the laboratory the specific DNA sequence which makes up the cry 1Ab gene is found and copied.
  3. The cry 1Ab soil bacterium version of the gene is modified slightly so that it will work better once in a corn plant.
  4. In a laboratory a corn plant is transformed with this new modified cry 1Ab gene which will provide the corn plant with insecticidal protection.
  5. The corn plant which is able to be transformed does not contain all of the optimal genes which a producer needs in the field.  Therefore the last step in biotechnology, occurs in the field where plant breeders cross this corn plant (which contains the cry 1Ab gene) with their top performing lines to create a high yielding BT corn variety.

Try This Game

Who Wants to be a Genetic Engineer Animation

See how well you understand the general concepts of making a genetically engineered crop by watching this interactive video, Who Wants to Be a Genetic Engineer? Clicking this image will open a new window, which you can make larger by clicking on and dragging the lower right-hand corner.

Where to Find More Information

Watch the step-by-step animations on this page for learning more details.  Be sure to check out the Plant and Soil Sciences eLibrary, where there are over 100 animations and eLessons free for your use!

If you would like to attend a seminar, online course or an on-campus course to learn more about biotechnology in plants or work on a college degree, contact Kathy Schindler in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at 402.472.1730 or email

More Details on the Steps

Click links here below to watch animations (in a new window) which depict more details involved with each of these steps:


Step 1 - DNA Extraction

DNA extraction cartoon

Step 2 - Copying the Gene


 PCR cartoon

Step 3 - Modifying the Gene




Step 4 - Putting the New Gene into a Plant


 gene gun cartoon

Step 5 - Breeding Transgenic Plant with an Elite Line


 corn breeding