GMO Timeline: A History of Genetically Modified Foods

GMO has been a slowly creeping threat for a while, but it’s ramped up lately. (Rosebud Magazine)

GMO has been a slowly creeping threat for a while, but it’s ramped up lately. (Rosebud Magazine)

Originally published by Rosebud
by GL Woolsey
September 13, 2012
Source article


GMO foods are such an embedded part of our food system these days, but it’s not difficult to think back to a time when food was simpler and healthier. How did we get to the point that genetically modified organisms infiltrate so much of what we eat? In a recent issue of Rosebud Magazine, GMO expert GL Woolsey took a look at the history of GMOs. We present that for you here now.

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

1973 – Recombinant DNA Created
The idea for man-made DNA, or rDNA, comes from a grad student at Stanford University Medical School. Professor Herbert Boyer and a few of his biologist colleagues run with it.

1975 – Asilomar Conference
A group of biologists get together with a few lawyers and doctors to create guidelines for the safe use of genetically engineered DNA.

1980 – First GMO Patent Issued
A 1980 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 in question is a bacterium with an appetite for crude oil, ready to gobble up spills.

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

1994 – GMO Hits Grocery Stores
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the Flavr Savr tomato for sale on grocery store shelves. The delayed-ripening tomato has a longer shelf life than conventional tomatoes.

1996 – GMO-Resistant Weeds
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 – Mandatory Labels
The European Union rules in favor of mandatory labeling on all GMO food products, including animal feed.

1999 – GMO Food Crops Dominate
Over 100 million acres worldwide are planted with genetically engineered seeds. The marketplace begins embracing GMO technology at an alarming rate.

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.

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.



  • George

    March 21, 2014 at 3:03 am

    Many claims made here in this “history” but not one link to an actual peer reviewed scientific published study.

    • Gloria

      April 7, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      @George, this page is just a summary of the history of GMOs. I found it helpful. Of course, if you want to find out what exactly is happening you’d have to do more in depth research. But do you REALLY need “peer reviewed” research to find out that GMOs are harmful? What kind of mind does not get that if something is harmful to insects, there isn’t a good chance that it can harm humans too? Yes, I get that humans can eat chocolate, but dogs can’t so I know that there are exceptions where not all organisms react the same, but, for the most part, if something is hurtful to one species, others don’t fare too well. Now add to this the fact that the incidence of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc. have been increasing at alarming rates. Again, if you want details and “peer reviewed” research that is not biased and paid for by Monsanto, you’d have to do more research but the page here is just a summary timeline of events, which either happened or they didn’t. It is not an argument for or against GMOs. Wake up dude and look around probably even just within your family or perhaps simply look in the mirror; with all the food and resources we could have access to now, no one should have to be sick.

      • Sam

        April 25, 2014 at 6:04 pm

        Please read this article on GMO’s it gives some references for the times given and a better description of what they are and how they are being used.

        • T. Bergenn

          May 19, 2014 at 1:03 pm

          As a longevity advisor, I find the above article posted by “Sam” to be very hospitable and convenient for Monsanto and other purveyors of bio-technology. Even if these would give GMO’s to their children (and I’m not sure they would if they could avoid it), this ought not make people trust it. Many people convince themselves of falsehoods, because they feel a certain stake in doing so. THIS is a complex web.

          The preponderance of evidence of those who have become severely sick, and not been able to find any substantial help from their medical practitioners, yet who have become well when they started and continued to mind their food intake, avoiding GMOs as much as possible… THIS is what I believe people should hear, and consider very deeply… even ponder in the quiet of their hearts and minds in prayer… when they try to “weed” through all the media about GMO’s.

          I am one of the people who became radiantly healthy after being chronically ill for a long time. Thank God, and thank those growers who grow organically, despite pressure, costs, and detractors. If you have chronic illness, I HIGHLY recommend you try sticking to an organic diet. Avoid too many sugars, and avoid gluten, and see how many of your symptoms resolve.

          God bless everyone who asks Him for a blessing and listens to His Word.
          T. Bergenn

  • […] insulin, which is used in the common treatment for diabetics, was the first GMO that the FDA passed in 1982. The synthetic insulin is a biosynthetic protein that is created by combining DNA from the E-Coli […]

  • Yash

    April 14, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Thank you so much. I working on a big school project on G.M.O.s and this helped me gather some serious info. Thanks Shireen Karimi!

    • bopob

      April 20, 2014 at 10:14 pm

      Same here!!!!

    • CDM

      April 28, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      Ya! I have this really important project on any subject I want and this made up for about half of my project!!! Thank you for the info!!

  • bopob

    April 20, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Thanks for the good resource, however I’m not sure the discovery of DNA really counts, since this is this is the history of GM foods.

  • Jennifer Smith

    April 23, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Thank you for this time line. I have a public seeking speech that I and doing on Organic vs. Gmos and this will surely get me an A!! thank you very much

  • bob

    April 23, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    good information!!!!!

  • Thelonius

    April 28, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Thanks for the timeline. A am working on a science project that is worth 30% of my grade. This really helped me!

  • Taylor

    May 7, 2014 at 12:48 am

    Going through college at the moment, a lot of this information is invalid. The first Genetic Modification was done in the 50s and research began in the 40s about genetic modification through bacterial infection. Truly amazing if you ask me.

    • Michelle Kim

      May 8, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Thanks for your comment, Taylor! IF you have resources to share that provide contrary information to our content, please send your corrections by using our contact page here:

      Documented evidence and research shows that while selective breeding and hybridization of plants–which is often confused with genetic engineering–dates back to hundreds of years ago in early farming communities, genetically engineered crops, created from the insertion of new DNA into an organism, were not largely commercialized until the mid-1990s.

  • Julie Keeney

    May 9, 2014 at 11:34 am

    I know it’s human nature to want to tinker with things an find out how things work, but by now I think there’s enough evidence to argue that Mother Nature or God, or the Force, or whatever you want to call it, seems to know best. This planet came with the most brilliant and well thought out auto pilot system that anyone has ever seen, far better than anything we’ve come up with to date, so I don’t know why we let people like Monsanto and the like continue to cause harm with their meddling. It’s pretty obvious that nobody approves, and yet they go on, growing in power and continuing on this scary path, regardless of the criticisms they encourage from nearly everyone across the board. Are they really so much stronger than our collective voice? Or are we just not screaming loud enough. I’d like to see everyone come together and put a stop to them once and for all.

  • B

    May 16, 2014 at 9:41 am

    If all of you are doing research on GMOS I suggest finding different sources. If you look closely you will see that this timeline only covers the history of the bt toxin for crops or the “round up ready” modification. So as you sit here and think GMOS are all bad do some more research. There are many positives to GMOS that sites like this won’t tell you. Did you know that their is a genetically modified form of rice that has higher concentration of vitamin A and B which can be grown in regions where the people lack these essential vitamins? Also, as a world our population is growing and is projected that there will be 70-100% more people on earth by 2050. So how are we expected to produce over twice as much food on a depleting amount of farmland as our cities are growing? I know a few GMOS are bad and are harmful but what you guys do not understand is that there are many positive GMOS in use that you do not know about because they don’t have a bad name. As farmers producing these crops we eat the same food you do so why would we put harmful things into the ground that we put into our own bodies? The realization is that we will need to advance GMOS and continue to use them in order to sustain the world’s growing population, there is no other way to produce that much food on our slowly declining farmland.

  • lexi

    May 20, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I find it extremely interesting that there has been such a rise in allergies, obesity, and thousands of other diseases, and when you look at the timeline the dates correlate very suspiciously with the initial rise of these diseases.
    Thanks so much for the info. Helped me with my homework.

  • eric

    June 14, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    So let me suggest a simple impartiality test: Does the person or organization you trust admit to both risks and benefits? If not, chances are good that your source has a dog — financial or ideological — in the fight. Read through Earth Open Source’s “evidence-based” position on genetically modified crops, “GMO Myths and Truths,” and you’ll find 123 pages of “no.” Go to GMO Answers, a Web site run by the biotech industry, and it’s hard to find any suggestion that there have been, or could be, disadvantages to genetic modification.
    That doesn’t mean that either of those organizations is inevitably wrong. It’s just a tip-off that neither is impartial.
    The impartiality exercise eliminates some of the organizations often cited in this debate. I couldn’t find the American Association for the Advancement of Science discussing GMO risks (although its journal, Science, does), and the Union of Concerned Scientists doesn’t talk about benefits.
    The organizations I found that pass, though, form a compelling coalition. The National Academies, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the Royal Society and the European Commission are all on the same side. Although it’s impossible to prove anything absolutely safe, and all of those groups warn that vigilance on GMOs and health is vital, they all agree that there’s no evidence that it’s dangerous to eat genetically modified foods. Even the Center for Science in the Public Interest is on board, and it has never been accused of being sanguine about food risks.

  • eric

    June 14, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    There are at least 42 publications extractable from the PubMed database that describe research reports of feeding studies of GM feed or food products derived from GM crops. The overwhelming majority of publications report that GM feed and food produced no significant differences in the test animals. The two studies reporting negative results were published in 1998 and 1999 and no confirmation of these effects have since been published. Many studies have been published since 2002 and all have reported no negative impact of feeding GM feed to the test species. Of the 42 publications, most examined the effects of feeding GM crop products to livestock including cattle, pigs and poultry. A smaller number examined effects on rats and mice with two on fish. As reported in the abstracts of the publications, 36 studies found no significant effect of GM crop products on the parameters measured or concluded GM and non-GM products were equivalent. Four studies reported a positive effect of the GM feed (however, two of these were GM plants engineered for improved food quality) and two reported negative effects. The studies reporting negative effects were published in 1998 and 1999 (references 3 and 4 in the list). Since 2000, 35 publications have reported no important differences or positive effects of feeding GM crops.