Timeline of Biotecnology

Essay by gunitA-, May 2004

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Here's a look back at 10,000 years of biotechnology...


Biotechnology is the use of biological processes to solve problems or make useful products. We began growing crops and raising animals in the Stone Age to provide a stable supply of food and clothing. We have used the biological processes for 6,000 years to make useful food products such as yeast material--to make bread rise and to ferment beer and wine.

About 150 years ago, an Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel figured out how hereditary traits are passed from parents to offspring in plants. Since then, people have used Mendel's discoveries to breed better crops. This was a very slow process because it took generations and generations of crops to breed desired traits.

Modern biotechnology is still based on Mendel's laws of heredity, but now we can transfer a single gene for a specific new trait into a plant with far greater precision than traditional breeding and much quicker.

Agricultural biotechnology is a tool to customize seeds with special qualities that can allow farmers to grow plants that are more nutritious, more resistant to pests and disease and more productive. It is used to identify a special trait in one source, such as taste or hardiness, and to incorporate that trait into a plant.

~8000 BC Humans domesticate crops and livestock Potatoes first cultivated for food

40002000 BC Biotechnology first used to leaven bread and ferment beer, using yeast. (Egypt and Mesopotamia) Production of cheese and wine (Sumeria, China and Egypt)

500 BC First antibiotic--Moldy soybean curds used to treat boils (China)

100 AD First insecticide--Powdered chrysanthemums (China)

15901675 It took 300 years to discover and begin to understand cells:

1590--Jansen invents the microscope

1663--Hooke discovers existence of the cell

1675--Leeuwenhoek discovers bacteria


1830--Proteins discovered

1833--First enzyme discovered...