The first transgenic organism was not produced by a megacorporation. It was created by Mother Nature a long time ago. This phenomenon, in which an organism integrates genetic material from another organism of which it is not the descendant, is called horizontal gene transfer… and it’s been going on for millions of years.
The sweet potato is an example.
A study recently published by scientists from Ghent University and the International Potato Center (The genome of cultivated sweet potato contains Agrobacterium T-DNAs with expressed genes) revealed that genome of the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) contains DNA sequences from a common gall-producing soil bacterium, Agrobacterium, and that the plant actively expresses these genes.
Moreover, this transfer is perhaps even at the very origin of the sweet potato’s domestication. The absorption of the microbe’s genes caused the roots of wild ipomoeas to swell up, believes virologist Jan Kreuze, the study’s chief researcher, converting their normally thin roots of little interest to humans into thick tuberous roots full of stored carbohydrates. Native Amerindians apparently discovered the transgenic plants about 8,000 years ago and began to cultivate them, creating by selection varieties with increasingly thick and sweet roots containing less and less fiber: the sweet potatoes that we know today
“People have been eating a GMO for thousands of years without knowing it,” concludes Kreuze.