Biotech landmarks

Published Monday, June 7, 2004

1973: Scientists at the University of California and Stanford University develop "splicing" methods to isolate and move genes between organisms.

1982: First whole biotech plants are grown in a lab: petunias resistant to antibiotic kanamycin and tobacco resistant to kanamycin and the cancer drug methotrexate.

1986: Tobacco is the first biotech crop to be field-tested in the United States.

1987: U.S. government approves Northern California release of bacteria genetically engineered to inhibit frost formation on crops.

1990: U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the first biotech substance for food: an enzyme derived from engineered bacteria used to make cheese.

1992: The FDA adopts a policy that asks, but does not require, developers of biotech food crops to notify the agency. It rejects mandatory labeling of biotech foods.

1994: The FDA approves Davis-based Calgene's Flavr Savr tomato, the first whole biotech food to be sold.

1996: Monsanto Co. releases "Roundup Ready" soybeans that survive treatment by the herbicide and a cotton that makes its own insecticide.

1997: The European Union requires labeling of biotech foods.

1998: The EU suspends approvals of new biotech plants for planting or import.

• Papaya engineered to resist ringspot virus is released and later credited with rescuing Hawaii's papaya industry.

1999: "Golden rice," bioengineered to boost vitamin A, is announced as a way to help the malnourished.

• Gerber announces it will not use biotech ingredients, a decision later followed by Frito-Lay and potato processor J.R. Simplot.

2000: StarLink biotech corn, approved for animal feed, is found in taco shells, prompting a massive recall.

• UC Berkeley researchers find biotech corn growing in Mexico, despite a ban there on planting biotech corn.

• California adopts a law giving rice growers the power to limit planting of new rice varieties.

2001: The FDA releases draft guidance on voluntary biotech labeling guidelines not final as of June 2004.

2002: Biotech corn, developed by ProdiGene for pig vaccine, contaminates Nebraska soybean fields and leads to the destruction of $3 million in beans.

• Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe turn back some biotech corn sent as aid, stirring international debate.

• Oregon voters reject biotech labeling. 2003: About 167 million acres worldwide are planted in biotech crops.

2004: Ventria Bioscience of Sacramento seeks permission to plant rice in California that would be the nation's first commercial crop to produce pharmaceutical compounds.

• Study shows widespread low-level biotech contamination of conventional U.S. seeds.

• Mendocino County becomes the first U.S. community to ban growing of biotech crops.

• EU lifts its moratorium on new biotech crops but plans strict purity and traceability standards.

• Angola rejects unmilled biotech corn during a food shortage.

Source: Bee research