GMO foods are such an embedded part of our food system these days, but it’s not difficult to think back to a time when food was simpler and healthier. How did we get to the point that genetically modified organisms infiltrate so much of what we eat? In a recent issue of Rosebud Magazine, GMO expert GL Woolsey took a look at the history of GMOs. We present that for you here now.
1935 – DNA Discovered
Russian scientist Andrei Nikolaevitch Belozersky isolates pure DNA.
1973 – Recombinant DNA Created
The idea for man-made DNA, or rDNA, comes from a grad student at Stanford University Medical School. Professor Herbert Boyer and a few of his biologist colleagues run with it.
1975 – Asilomar Conference
A group of biologists get together with a few lawyers and doctors to create guidelines for the safe use of genetically engineered DNA.
1980 – First GMO Patent Issued
A 1980 court case between a genetics engineer at General Electric and the U.S. Patent Office is settled by a 5-to-4 Supreme Court ruling, allowing for the first patent on a living organism. The GMO in question is a bacterium with an appetite for crude oil, ready to gobble up spills.
1982 – FDA Approves First GMO
Humulin, insulin produced by genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, appears on the market.
1994 – GMO Hits Grocery Stores
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the Flavr Savr tomato for sale on grocery store shelves. The delayed-ripening tomato has a longer shelf life than conventional tomatoes.
1996 – GMO-Resistant Weeds
Weeds resistant to glyphosate, the herbicide used with many GMO crops, are detected in Australia. Research shows that the super weeds are seven to 11 times more resistant to glyphosate than the standard susceptible population.
1997 – Mandatory Labels
The European Union rules in favor of mandatory labeling on all GMO food products, including animal feed.
1999 – GMO Food Crops Dominate
Over 100 million acres worldwide are planted with genetically engineered seeds. The marketplace begins embracing GMO technology at an alarming rate.
2003 – GMO-Resistant Pests
In 2003, a Bt-toxin-resistant caterpillar-cum-moth, Helicoverpa zea, is found feasting on GMO Bt cotton crops in the southern United States. In less than a decade, the bugs have adapted to the genetically engineered toxin produced by the modified plants.
2011 – Bt Toxin in Humans
Research in eastern Quebec finds Bt toxins in the blood of pregnant women and shows evidence that the toxin is passed to fetuses.
2012 – Farmer Wins Court Battle
French farmer Paul Francois sues Monsanto for chemical poisoning he claims was caused by its pesticide Lasso, part of the Roundup Ready line of products. Francois wins and sets a new precedent for future cases.
2014 – GMO Patent Expires
Monsanto’s patent on the Roundup Ready line of genetically engineered seeds will end in two years. In 2009, Monsanto introduced Roundup 2 with a new patent set to make the first-generation seed obsolete.