In the early twentieth century, scientists and agriculturalists collected plants in greenhouses, botanical gardens, and fields. Seed collection efforts in the twentieth century coincided with the professionalization of plant breeding. When scientists became concerned over the loss of plant genetic diversity due to the expansion of a few agricultural crops around mid-century, countries and organizations created seed banks for long-term seed storage.
Farmers have long relied on genetic diversity to breed new crops, but in the early 1900s scientists began to study the importance of plant genetic diversity for agriculture. Scientists realized that seed crops could be systematically bred with their wild relatives to incorporate specific genetic traits or to produce hybrids for more productive crop yields.
Johann Gregor Mendel studied plants and their patterns of inheritance in Austria during the nineteenth century. Mendel experimented with the pea plant, Pisum, and his publication, “Versuche über Pflanzenhybriden” (“Experiments on Plant Hybridization”), published in 1866, revolutionized theories of trait inheritance.
Golden Rice was engineered from normal rice by Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer in the 1990s to help improve human health. Golden Rice has an engineered multi-gene biochemical pathway in its genome. This pathway produces beta-carotene, a molecule that becomes vitamin A when metabolized by humans.
During the mid-nineteenth century, Johann Gregor Mendel experimented with pea plants to develop a theory of inheritance.