Agricultural Biotechnology: Background, Regulation, and Policy Issues [July 28, 2015]   [open pdf - 501KB]

"Biotechnology refers primarily to the use of recombinant DNA techniques to genetically modify or bioengineer plants and animals. Most crops developed through recombinant DNA technology have been engineered to be tolerant of various herbicides or to be pest resistant through having a pesticide genetically engineered into the plant organism. U.S. soybean, cotton, and corn farmers have rapidly adopted genetically engineered (GE) varieties of these crops since their commercialization in the mid-1990s. Over the past 15 years, GE varieties in the United States have increased from 3.6 million planted acres to 173 million acres in 2013. Worldwide, 27 countries planted GE crops on approximately 433 million acres in 2013. GE varieties now dominate soybean, cotton, and corn production in the United States, and they continue to expand rapidly in other countries, particularly in Latin America. […] In the United States, agricultural biotechnology is regulated under the 1986 Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology. Three federal agencies--the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)--share regulatory responsibilities. Regulatory non-compliance incidents and issues associated with environmental effects of GE plants have repeatedly raised concerns about the adequacy of existing U.S. regulatory structures. Questions have also arisen about the adequacy of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's (APHIS's) environmental assessments for deregulating GE plants."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL32809
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