The following is an excerpt of a guest column in the Denton (TX) Record-Chronicle by Texas A&M Extension Agent David Annis about the history of genetically modification.
Have you wondered if genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe to eat? Do you wonder about the labels on the food that say "Natural" or "Organic" and what this means to you? Are you concerned about antibiotics in meats and dairy on your table? Where do you turn for the unbiased answers to these questions?
Let's face it. The debate — no, let's call it what it is — the fight both for and against GMOs have been going on for years. Nevertheless, did you know that we have been playing around with GMOs for thousands of years? Modifying crops, cross breeding animals, always in search of those that were best suited for the environment around them. These modifications reached the point hundreds of years ago that these plants would not survive without the help and management of humans. How did we get here?
Between 1850 and 1860, Austrian monk Gregor Mendel tinkered with the genetics of the pea plant. In the 1950s, scientists started using radiation in plant-breeding programs. This has produced thousands of useful mutants and a sizable fraction of the world's crops. These include varieties of rice, wheat, barley, pears, peas, cotton, peppermint, sunflowers, peanuts, grapefruit, sesame, bananas, cassava and sorghum. The mutant wheat is used for bread and pasta, and the mutant barley for beer and fine whiskey.
To read the rest of the article, please read the original column at the Denton Record-Chronicle.