Farmers have grown commercial GM crops for about 20 years, but genetic modification in crops is much older. Farmers have been intentionally changing the genetic makeup of all domesticated crops for about 10,000 years. Every fruit, vegetable and grain that is commercially available today has been altered by human hands, including organic and heirloom seeds.
Then, in the late 20th century, advances in technology enabled us to expand the genetic diversity of crops through genetic engineering; a major result of this was GM seeds. Kent Bradford, director of the University of California, Davis Seed Biotechnology Center explains, "From the scientists’ point of view, [genetic engineering] was just an obvious extension of breeding and crop improvement methods that they were excited to utilize.”
Today, there are only nine commercially available GMO crops in the U.S: soybeans, corn (field and sweet), canola, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, summer squash, papaya and potatoes. GMO apples have also been approved to be grown and will be coming to market soon.
The chart below explains why each of the nine GMO crops – which are commercially available today – are genetically modified:
Below is a table outlining what year the nine crops became commercially available:
Sugar beets 2006
These nine are the only GMO crops that are commercially available, but it is also important to note that many of these crops are ingredients in other types of food you may find in your local grocery store.
The GM salmon was recently approved by the FDA and is the first GMO food animal to be approved and commercially available. The salmon was genetically modified for a few reasons including to conserve wild fish populations and provide low impact aquaculture.