There has been a general perception in the media and with the public at large that GMO's exist largely in the form of new crops producing Frankenstein Foods. In fact there are many different types of GMO under production, some of which we consume on a regular basis.
A GMO is any living thing in which the genetic makeup has been altered for specific purpose. This includes organisms designed to manufacture proteins as well as modified crops and farm animals. Broadly we can classify these as Indoor -meaning laboratory based, and Outdoor meaning those found outside of the lab.
Indoor GMO's consist of laboratory based organisms used for the production of medicines such as antibiotics, vaccines and insulin. Some of these GMO's are also involved in the production of food products, for example yeast for baking and brewing.
Outdoor GMO's consist of a range of organisms that may have been modified to improve yields (crops or farm animals), to control pests or solve environmental or other problems. The most visible manifestation of these however is GM crops which have attracted much media attention.
All GMO's are strictly controlled by law. Production and research is subject to inspection by the HSE whilst the release (eg the sale of a GM crop to farmers) is subject to the GMO (Deliberate Release) regulations. Any use of a GMO as a food is controlled by the Novel Food Regulations.