The history of genetic engineering can be traced back to historic times. Animal and plant breeders have found ways to alter and change genes to their advantage for thousands of years. For example, yeast fermentation was used to manipulate the seeds. But the actual science of genetic engineering came much later. Genetic engineering is based on genetics, a science started from the early 1900’s, based on experiments by the Austrian monk, Gregor Mendel. Genetic engineers in the past have created important of plants, vegetables, grains, cows, horses, dogs, and cats.
Late 1960’s - early 1970’s was origin of genetic engineering, through experiments with bacteria, viruses, and small free floating rings of DNA called plasmids, found in bacteria.
Techniques for isolating and altering genes were first developed by American genetics during the early 1970
1970’s - scientists found ways to reintroduce single genes into different cells or plants, animals, organisms. These methods alter the heredity of the cells or organisms.
By the early 1980’s, bacterially produced insulin became the first recombinant DNA drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use on people.
In the early 1980’s, geneticists made progress in using genetic engineering techniques to add genes to higher organisms. Researchers inserted a human growth-hormone gene in to mice, and the mice grew to twice their normal size.
Early 1900’s - scientists mapped, or took apart, the smallest human chromosomes : Y chromosome and chromosome 21. Breaking these chromosomes into small pieces allowed researchers to reproduce these segments in large quantities.
- "History of Genetic Engineering ." The Global Politics of Food . 2000. 8 Aug. 2004 <http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/gmos_india/history.html>. An excellent source for general information on genetic engineering, with many dates and statistical information.
1966 - Ian Wilmut and his colleagues pioneered the technique of cloning mammals from the cells of adult animals.
1967 - Japanese and American scientists in Hawaii used a similar technique to produce clones of mice.
1968 - Werner Arber discovered restriction enzymes. Swiss microbiologist.
1969 - type II restriction enzymes identified by American molecular biologist Hamilton O. Smith. Daniel Nathans, American molecular biologist, helped advance the technique of DNA recombination.
1970-1971 - demonstrated that type II enzymes could be useful in genetic studies
1973 - genetic engineering itself pioneered by American biochemists Stanley N. Cohen and Herbert W. Boyer, who were among the first to cut DNA in to fragments, rejoin different fragments, and add the genes to certain bacteria to reproduce.
1976 - the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued safety guidelines to control laboratory procedures for gene splicing. These guidelines have been gradually relaxed because such research was proved safe.
During the late 1970’s, researchers used recombinant DNA to engineer bacteria to produce small quantities of insulin and interferon.
1982 - researchers succeeded in transferring a gene from one species of fruit fly to another. That same year, geneticists proved genes can be transferred between plant species.
1985 - The NIH approved experimental guidelines for treatment in which genes are transplanted to correct hereditary defects in human beings.
1986 - the US Patent and Trademark Office issued the first patent on a plant produced through genetic engineering, a type of corn with increased nutritional value.
1986 - US Department of Agriculture approved the sale of the first living genetically altered organism which was a virus, and had been used as a vaccine.
1987 - Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine was shared by the discoverer of restriction enzymes - Hamilton O. Smith. The first people to use these tools to analyze the genetic material of a virus, Daniel Nathans and Werner Arber.
1987 - a committee of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that transferring genes between species of organisms posed no serious environmental hazards
In 1987, scientists introduced a gene from a bacterial cell into tomato plants, making the plants resistant to caterpillars.
1988 - the first US patent on a genetically engineered higher animal was issued. The animal, a type of mouse, was developed for use in cancer research
1990 - the FDA approved rennin (a type of enzyme used for making cheese, found naturally in the stomachs of calves) as the first genetically engineered gene product.
1996 - a group of Scottish scientists led by British biologist Ian Wilmut achieved the first successful cloning of a mammal from the cells of an adult animal. They produced a clone of a sheep, which they named Dolly.
1997 - the USDA amended its regulations on genetically engineered plants. Once plant breeders has shown that a genetically altered plant has no risk for becoming a pest, they can apply to the USDA to obtain nonregulated status for that plant.