In 1994, the Flavr Savr tomato became the first genetically engineered crop approved for human consumption. Despite its name, the tomato was not particularly tasty or easy to ship, and it was expensive to produce. In 1998, it was removed from the market.
Approved in 1994, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybean was designed to resist Monsanto’s popular glyphosate herbicide, Roundup. The first glyphosate-resistant weed was found in 2000. Known commonly as "superweeds," they now number 10 species. In 2010, Monsanto announced it would be offering herbicide rebates to farmers using their Roundup Ready soybeans.
Introduced in 1995, Syngenta’s Bt176 was developed originally to be resistant to the European corn borer and later, root worm. Genetically modified corn has dramatically reduced the pest population of the European corn borer, a benefit to the farmers who plant the less-expensive conventional corn seed, as well.
Like corn and soybeans, canola was genetically engineered to be herbicide-tolerant and was approved in 1996. Today, about 90 percent of the U.S. and Canadian canola crop is genetically modified. As in corn and soybean fields, the use of the herbicide glyphosate by farmers is resulting in the emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds, known as "superweeds."
Developed by Monsanto and KWS Saat Ag to be glyphosate-resistant, the genetically engineered sugar beet was approved by the USDA in 2005. It now accounts for 95 percent of the U.S. sugar beet market and makes up half of the U.S. production of sugar. (The other half is derived from sugarcane.)
Developed in 1999, Golden Rice was genetically modified to contain higher levels of beta carotene, which our bodies use to make vitamin A. A country-by-country approval process could mean slow going for adoption of Golden Rice. But Golden Rice has already been cross-bred into local rice varieties in India and the Philippines in limited quantities. There are no plans to grow or distribute it in the U.S.
In 1999, scientists added DNA from a mouse and E. coli bacteria to a Yorkshire pig embryo to create "Enviropig": so named because it is able to better digest plant phosphorus and produces 30 to 70 percent less phosphorus in its manure, potentially reducing pollution. Enviropig has been approved for limited production in Canada and is under review by the FDA.
Scientists have discovered how to turn off the gene that produces the enzyme polyphenol oxidase. The result? Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples that are slower to brown when sliced. Okanagan Specialty Fruits of British Columbia petitioned the USDA in November 2010 for approval of their genetically engineered Arctic-brand apples.
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By: Claire Leschin-Hoar
Historically, crops have been genetically tweaked to be herbicide-resistant or insect-resistant, but scientists are stacking traits (where more than one gene has been transferred) to address both pest and weed problems and are looking at ways to improve the nutritional values of many staple crops. Here's a closer look at several of the hundred or so genetically engineered foods that have made it, or are about to make it, onto the dinner plate.
Check out the slideshow above to discover 8 genetically engineered foods.