Brief History of GMO

The following is a brief list of the milestones in the history of modern genetic engineering and GMO:

1856 – Modern Genetics is Born
A German speaking Austrian scientist and Augustinian friar named Gregor Mendel established the foundations of genetics with his scientific investigations of traits passed down in pea plants.

1935 – DNA Isolated
Russian scientist Andrei Nikolaevitch Belozersky isolates pure DNA.

1953 – DNA Structure Discovered
James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA.

1973- DNA Cloning Technique Created
Stanford medical school grad student Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen invented the process of genetic engineering. Their discoveries led to the possibility of DNA cloning, which is a fundamental technique used to genetically modifying organisms.

1976 – The NIH produces guidelines for Genetic Modification Research

1977 – Frederick Sanger developed chain termination DNA sequencing
This allows scientists to read the nucleotide sequence of a DNA molecule.

1975 – the Asilomar Conference is held
A group of biologists, lawyers and doctors meet to create guidelines for the safe use of genetically engineered DNA.

1980 First Transgenic (Genetically Modified) Mouse Created

1980 – GMO Research in Full Swing
Corporations were busy applying for patents for the organisms they genetically modified. The 1980’s marked the scientific discovery that specific pieces of DNA could be transferred from one organism to another (Cramer, 2001).

1980 – the first GMO patent issued
A 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  is a bacterium that digests crude oil and envisioned to be used for cleaning up oil spills.

1982 – FDA approves First GMO
FDA approves Humulin, an insulin produced by genetically engineered E. coli bacteria appears on the market.

1982 Giant mouse produced by transferring growth hormone genes from a rat.

1983 Kary Mullis, a biochemist invented the ‘polymerase chain reaction’ which is a technique enabling scientists to reproduce bits of DNA faster than ever before. (Mullis was awarded the Nobel Prize for this in 1993)

Four separate groups of scientists create GM plants; three groups insert bacterial genes into plants and one inserts a bean gene into a sunflower plant. Richard Palmiter and Ralph Brinster placed the gene for human growth hormone in an early mouse embryo. The resulting adult was double the normal size.

1980′s to early 1990′s China first to put GM crops on sale, namely a virus-resistant tobacco and a tomato.

1983 – First Transgenic Plant Created
A tobacco plant resistant to anti-biotics was created (Cramer, 2001).

1985 First transgenic domestic animal, a pig.
First transgenic plant produced which was resistant against a definite insect species.

1987 A series of transgenic mice produced carrying human genes.
A transgenic plant produced resistant to a particular kind of herbicide.

1988 First transgenic plant producing a pharmaceutical.
Transgenic maize (corn) produced.
First animal patented: the Harvard University ‘oncomouse’, a transgenic mouse genetically engineered to develop cancer.

1989 Publication (Science 254: 1281-1288) of data about the ‘Beltsville pig’; a transgenic pig (named after the agricultural research station in Maryland USA), which suffered a range of pathological conditions because it had a gene for human growth hormone.

1990 GM used to make chymosin, an enzyme used in making hard cheese.

1991 First gene therapy trials on humans.

1993 U S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Bovine somatotropin (bST) a metabolic protein hormone used to increase milk production in dairy cows for commercial use. Scientists determined which gene in cattle controls or codes for the production of bST. They removed this gene from cattle and inserted it into a bacterium Escherichia coli. This bacterium produces large amounts of bST in controlled laboratory conditions. The bST produced by the bacteria is purified and then injected into cattle.

1994 Plant IVF (in vitro fertilisation) — maize (corn).

1990 – Genetically Engineered Cotton was Successfully Field Tested

1994 – First GMO Crop becomes Commercially Available
The first commercially grown genetically modified food crop available for commercial sale was a tomato called the FlavrSavr created by California company called Calgene. It was genetically altered to stave of decomposition after being picked, giving it a longer shelf-life. A variety of the tomato was used to make tomato puree that was sold in Europe in the mid-1990s, before controversy erupted over GM crops. It closed in 1997 due to mounting costs and was purchased by Monsanto

1995 – Monsanto introduces GMO Soybean
Monsanto the leading biotech company, introduced herbicide-immune soybeans otherwise known as “Round-Up-Ready” (Cramer, 2001).

1996 – The birth of the first cloned animal
Dolly the sheep, was announced.

1996 – GM Approved Foods in EU
Tomato paste approved in the UK, first GM herbicide tolerant soya beans (Roundup Ready Soybeans) and insect protected maize approved in the EU.

1996 – EU Directive on Release of GMO
Council Directive 90/220/EEC of 23 April 1990 on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms

1996 – Weeds develop Resistance to GMO
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 – EU requires mandatory labels on all GMO food products, including animal feed

1997: the cloning of a transgenic lamb (Polly) cloned from cells engineered with a marker gene and a human gene19 was announced. In this way, the genetic modification of a lamb was combined with the techniques of cloning, thereby generating animals that produce a new protein.

1997 EC Novel Foods Regulation (258/97) comes into effect, requiring a safety assessment for novel and GM foods before they go on sale.

1997 – Mandatory Labels The European Union rules in favor of mandatory labeling on all GMO food products, including animal feed.

1998 ‘Terminator technology’ moved a step closer to the fields: US Patent No. 5,723,765, granted to Delta & Pine Land Co. an American cotton seed company and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on a technique that genetically-disables a seed’s capacity to germinate when planted again, meaning that farmers must buy seed supplies every season instead of keeping some of what they had harvested.

April, a UK supermarket chain bans use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in its products; a move which is over the following 18 months is followed by the other UK supermarket chains.
1998 First GM labelling rules introduced to provide consumers with information regarding the use of GM ingredients in food.

1998 -Research suggests GM Potatos Toxic
Dr Arpad Pusztai, then of the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, published research suggesting that GM potatoes, modified with an insecticide gene taken from the snowdrop, were toxic to rats in feeding trials.

1999 September, first publicly reported patient death in a gene therapy trial caused by the gene therapy itself.
May; widespread contamination of the UK oilseed rape crop by GM oilseed rape contaminated seed imported from Canada by Advanta.

1999 – GMO Food crops dominate the market
Over 100 million acres worldwide planted with genetically engineered seeds. The marketplace begins embracing GMO technology at an alarming rate.

2000 – Vitamin and Mineral Enhancement via GMO
Scientist discovered that the modification process could be used to introduce nutrients and vitamins to enrich foods (Cramer, 2001).

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.

2001 – UK Parliament passes a regulation on cloning of human embryos for the purposes of research into serious disease
Embryos may be experimented on only up to their 14th day of life.
Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms and repealing Council Directive 90/220/EEC. This contains a so-called ‘safeguard clause’ (Art. 23). According to this clause, Member States may provisionally restrict or prohibit the use and/or sale of the GM product on its territory. The Member State must have justifiable reasons to consider that the GMO in question poses a risk to human health or the environment.  Six Member States currently apply safeguard clauses on GMO events: Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Germany and Luxembourg.

2002 Patent law proposed for biotechnology industries to protect their IP

2003Human genome Sequenced

2003 – GMO-Resistant Pests 
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.

European GMO-free regions Network was established. Ten European Regions signed a joint declaration at the European Parliament to safeguard their agriculture policies (mainly based on support to high quality, traditional and low impact production systems) which can be disrupted by the introduction of GMOs. The Network is based on a political agreement with no binding juridical status.

2004 – EC Regulation on GM Food and Feed (EC 1829/2003) and EC Regulation on Traceability and Labelling of GMOs (EC 1830/2003)
The EC Regulations became legally binding on 18 April 2004. Regulation 1830/2003 requires labelling of all GM food and feed, which contain or consist of GMOs or are produced from or contain ingredients produced from GMOs regardless of the presence or absence of GM material in the final food or feed product. This is an extension to the previous labelling rules which were only triggered by the demonstrable presence of GM material in the final product.

2005 – Development of Principles for the European GMO-free Regions
Formally laid down in February in Florence during the Network’s 3rd Conference with the subscription of a joint document called “Charter of Florence“.

2006 GMO Pig
A pig was engineered to produce omega-3 fatty acids through the insertion of a roundworm gene

2008 – EU European Commission approves the GM maize GA21 for feed and food use and for import and processing
GA21 is not approved for cultivation in the EU.

2010 – EU European Commission approves Amflora  for industrial applications
Amflora is a genetically modified potato – the result of two decades of research efforts. The Amflora potato is selected for its special starch properties used in paper making and adhesives

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.

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.

(source: GMO Inside)