GMO Need To Know: What are Amino Acids?

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Before you can discuss the good, bad, and unknowns of genetically modified organisms, it’s important to have a grasp of basic concepts that you’ll run into often. During the next few months, we’ll break down the key terms in a user-friendly way. First up: Amino Acids.


Amino acids are organic compounds that contain amine and carboxyl functional groups, along with a side chain specific to each amino acid. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, although other elements are found in the side chains of certain amino acids. (Wikipedia)

Amino acids are often referred to as building blocks. Stack enough of them together and you come up with proteins. So that sense, they’re like Legos.


Tryptophan is an amino acid involved in the production of serotonin and niacin among other proteins. Since it cannot be produced in the body, it is considered an essential amino acid. It needs to be acquired through diet.



IMAGE SOURCE: Arto Alanenpää/Creative Commons

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