It was 30 years ago this month that scientists first published the news that they could place functional foreign genes into plant cells. The feat promised to launch an exciting phase in biotechnology, in which desired traits and abilities could be coaxed into plants used for food, fibres and even fuel.
Genetically modified (GM) crops promised to make life easier and nature’s bounty even more desirable.
As a series of articles in this week’s Nature explores, things have not worked out that way. The future matters more than the past, but when it comes to GM crops, the past is instructive.