Click here to visit the EUFIC Homepage
Food Safety & Quality
Food Technology
Food Risk Communication
Nutrition
Health & Lifestyle
Diet-Related Diseases
Consumer Insights
Food for thought
EU initiatives
In the spotlight
Energy Balance

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the Health on the Net Foundation Code for trustworthy health information:
verify here.



Modern Biotechnology in Food: Milestones in food development

500,000 BC
Humans first created a permanent cooking place in the form of a hearth. Initially, food was cooked by dropping it onto hot embers; later stone grills, spit roasting and stewing over hot ashes were used.

18,000 BC
Animals were domesticated and bred for food in the Middle East; early successes were with deer, antelope and sheep.

8,000 BC
Stone rollers were first used in Ancient Egypt to grind grain into meal and flour.

7,000 BC
Farmers in the Middle East began to cultivate the soil with sticks.

6,000 BC
Stone sickles were used to harvest grain, and techniques for drying and smoking were developed in Europe and elsewhere.

5,000 BC
Pigs were domesticated by the Chinese, Romans and Greeks.

4,000 BC
Dairy farming developed into a major enterprise in the Middle East, the Sumerians began making butter by churning milk, and the Egyptians started growing vines and making wines.

3,000 BC
Irrigation was invented by the Egyptians, who redirected water from the River Nile into their fields. Peruvians started to grow potatoes on a large scale.

2,500 BC
Geese were domesticated by the Egyptians

2,000 BC
Fermentation, baking, brewing and cheese making were learned by the Egyptians and Sumerians. The use of domesticated goats, cattle, horses, geese, chickens and ducks gradually replaced hunting.

500 BC
Marinating was developed by people in the Mediterranean. Salting, and later curing and pickling, were learned by people across Europe.

300 BC
Grafting techniques were first used in Greece, resulting in the creation of orchards and groves.

1000 AD
Oxen were first used to pull ploughs in Europe, giving more efficient tillage of the land.

1276
The first whiskey distillery was set up in Ireland.

1400
The first confectionery was made in Europe by dipping fruits and berries into melted sugar.

1500s
Acidic cooking techniques - fermenting foods, then spicing or salting them - became increasingly popular. Early products were sauerkraut and yoghurt.

1776
The steam-driven mill was invented in London, making flour milling the first modern food industry.

1830
The modern distillery was invented, advancing brandy production

1850s
The first soft drinks were produced in the US, made by mixing fruit juice with sugar, carbonated water and citric acid. In London, the Perkins steam-heated oven was unveiled, giving bakers greater control over oven temperature. This revolutionised commercial baking.

1859
Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, describing his theory on evolution, was published in London.

1861
Louis Pasteur developed a technique - now known as pasteurisation - of preserving food by heating, removing air and sealing it into a container.

1865
Gregor Mendel described his laws of heredity at a meeting of the Natural Science Society in Brunn, Austria.

1878
The components of yeast cells which cause fermentation were identified and the term "enzyme" was first used, derived from the Greek term meaning "in yeast".

1878
The components of yeast cells which cause fermentation were identified and the term "enzyme" was first used, derived from the Greek term meaning "in yeast".

1906
Modern freeze-drying techniques were mastered in France.

1913
Home refrigerators were invented in the US.

1920
American Clarence Birdseye invented deep-freezing for foods.

1926
Enzymes were first shown to be proteins.

1937
Instant coffee was invented in Switzerland, leading to the development of powdered foods.

1940
Microwave technology was invented, using microwaves to make food molecules vibrate, create friction and heat.

1962
Planting of high-yield wheat varieties (later known as Green Revolution grains) started in Mexico.

1964
New strains of rice were developed by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. These gave double the yield of earlier strains if enough fertiliser was used.

1973
Stanley Cohen of Stanford University and Herbert Boyer of the University of California at San Francisco successfully recombined ends of bacterial DNA after splicing a foreign gene in between. Modern biotechnology was born.

1981
Chinese scientists were the first to clone a fish, the golden carp.

1982
The first food application of a product of gene technology, alpha- amylase, took place.

1983
The first transgenic plant - tobacco - was produced in the laboratory.

1988
Another product of gene technology, recombinant chymosin, was approved for food use in Switzerland.

1990
Two food processing aids made using gene technology were approved: an enzyme for use in cheese-making in the US, and a yeast used in baking in the UK.

1990-92
The first transgenic maize and wheat plants produced; genetic modification of cereals becomes a reality.

1994
Flavr Savr improved tomato approved in the US.

1995
Oils from genetically modified varieties of oilseed rape and soya beans, and tomato paste produced from genetically modified tomatoes approved in the UK.

ABOUT EUFIC
The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) is a non-profit organisation which communicates science-based information on nutrition and health, food safety and quality, to help consumers to be better informed when choosing a well-balanced, safe and healthful diet.

Read more
This site was last updated 14/04/2014
View all search results