Timeline of Biotechnology

Is biotechnology really a new technology?

While the most commonly recognized use of modern biotechnology is in crops, one of the first applications of biotechnology in modern life was for insulin, which has saved millions of lives. But biotechnology shows up in unexpected places throughout human history. From the time of the ancient Egyptians when an understanding of microbiological processes helped create wines and breads, biotechnology has helped humans find solutions to our challenges. We’ve used selective breeding to domesticate crops for thousands of years, creating most of the crops we eat today. We’ve cross-bred plants within species to achieve specific results for generations, such as cabbage, which in the wild is inedible but when domesticated brings us broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, bok choy and more! We’ve combined genes from two or more varieties of plants to create new varieties and better plants—also known as hybridization—since the 1920s.

Hybridization led to the discovery of DNA structure in the 1950s, and precise isolation and transfer of genes which caused the expression of favorable traits (by “lending” DNA from one organism to another) in the 1970s. This is how modern biotechnology was born, helping create everything from life-saving vaccines, to corn and cotton crops that are able to resist pests on their own, as other plants in nature do independently.

New developments are providing new ways to apply biotechnology with increasing precision. Today, DuPont plant breeders are identifying and transferring specific genes to create the desired traits or characteristics farmers are looking for in a plant. DuPont scientists are creating detergent enzymes that will enable shorter wash cycles, use less water on lower temperatures, and still deliver the performance consumers need. We’re also creating renewably sourced materials that help reduce fossil fuel use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions...and today's innovations are paving the road for tomorrow's solutions.