The Global Politics of FoodEngineering Crops in a Needy World

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Before genetic engineering:

Prehistoric times to 1900
Gatherers find food from plants they find in nature, and farmers plant seeds saved from domesticated crops. Foods are manipulated through the use of yeast and fermentation. Some naturalists and farmers begin to recognize "hybrids," plants produced through natural breeding between related varieties of plants.

European plant scientists begin using Gregor Mendel's genetic theory to manipulate and improve plant species. This is called "classic selection." A plant of one variety is crossed with a related plant to produce desired characteristics.

Modern genetic engineering

James Watson and Francis Crick publish their discovery of the three-dimensional double helix structure of DNA. This discovery will eventually lead to the ability of scientists to identify and "splice" genes from one kind of organism into the DNA of another.

Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen combine their research to create the first successful recombinant DNA organism.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Diamond v. Chakrabarty rules that genetically altered life forms can be patented. The decision allows the Exxon Oil Company to patent an oil-eating microorganism.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the first genetically engineered drug, Genentech's Humulin, a form of human insulin produced by bacteria. This is the first consumer product developed through modern bioengineering.

The first field tests of genetically engineered plants (tobacco) are conducted in Belgium.

The first field tests of genetically engineered crops (tobacco and tomato) are conducted in the United States.

Calgene's Favr Savr tomato, engineered to remain firm for a longer period of time, is approved for commercial production by the US Department of Agriculture.

The FDA declares that genetically engineered foods are "not inherently dangerous" and do not require special regulation.

The European Union's first genetically engineered crop, tobacco, is approved in France.

International Biosafety Protocol is approved by 130 countries at the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montréal, Canada. The protocol agrees upon labeling of genetically engineered crops, but still needs to be ratified by 50 nations before it goes into effect.

MIT Tech Review
"About Biotech" from Access Excellence
Biotechnology timeline from North Carolina Biology Center
United States Food and Drug Administration
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Database of Field Trials
Federal Register, May 29, 1992
Regulatory Process for Transgeneic Crops in the US from Colorado State University

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