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The history of plant and animal breeding dates back to 9000 BCE, when people in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) planted the first seeds and tamed animals for meat. Since then, people worldwide have domesticated and bred wild plants and animals for food.

Early plant and animal cultivators relied on cross-breeding two different species to improve crops and animals. This was a slow, laborious process. Developing a new variety often took years or even generations.

The process became much more efficient and precise as scientists began to understand how genes control the expression of traits. In the 20th century, using detailed knowledge of a plant or animal’s DNA, scientists could make more exact changes to its genetic code.

Thanks to innovation and evolving breeding methods in agriculture and food, and a deep understanding of DNA, scientists can make precise genetic changes to plants and animals to meet some of society's most urgent and pressing challenges including climate change, sustainability, hunger and improving health and wellness.