Historical Uses of Biotechnology

The link between biotechnology and food has been dated back to 1800 B.C., when yeast was first used to leaven bread and ferment wine (3).

Deliberate cross-pollination, another technique of biotechnology, began by the 1860’s. Foods such as potatoes, corn, tomatoes, wheat, oat and rice are all products of traditional cross-breeding (3).

The ability to transfer genetic information between plants using molecular technology was developed in 1973. This process is what is often referred to as genetic engineering.

The use of food biotechnology is rapidly growing. In 2007, more than 340 million acres worldwide were planted with genetically modified crops. The United States accounted for 48% of the total acreage (6,7). In 1998, 51.3 million acres of biotech crops were being grown in the United States (70 million worldwide). In 1996, only 3.6 million acres of these crops existed in the United States (3).

Discussion Question:

What are some examples of biotechnology crops grown in the United States that you have heard of through the popular press (i.e. newspapers, magazines)?