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When were GMO’s introduced into our food supply?

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Expert response from Community Manager

Tuesday, 06/04/2019 16:40

Farmers have grown commercial GM crops for over 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.”

 

Before GM crops, the first GMO in the food supply was an enzyme used for producing cheese, and is present in many organic cheeses as well. Until the 1990’s, rennet, the substance that causes milk to coagulate and turn into hard cheese, was primarily harvested from the fourth stomach of young ruminant animals, often calves slaughtered for veal. As demand for cheese increased over time, supply could not be met with traditional animal-produced rennet. Scientists were able to fill the void by transferring the chymosin gene into bacteria that could generate large quantities of chymosin, which is a purer, more consistent product than that derived from animal sources, not to mention more environmentally- and animal-friendly.

 

Today, there are 10 commercially available GMO crops in the U.S.: soybeans, corn (field and sweet), canola, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, summer squash, papaya, potatoes and apples.

Below is a table outlining what year the ten crops became commercially available: 

Squash

1995

Cotton

1996

Soybean

1995

Corn

1996

Papaya

1997

Alfalfa

2006

Sugar beets

2006

Canola

1999

Potato

2016

Apple

2017

 

We hope this answers your question, if you have any other questions about GMOs or biotechnology, please ask!

 

 

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