1. Is biotechnology less safe than other plant breeding techniques?
No. Biotechnology is safe. It is a refinement of breeding techniques that have been used to improve plants for thousands of years. Biotechnology is simply a more precise science, so scientists are able to isolate a specific gene to make exact changes to a crop (for example, to make a corn plant resistant to the corn borer insect.)
Scientists around the world agree that the risks associated with crop plants developed using biotechnology are the same as those for similar varieties developed using traditional breeding methods.
2. Are foods derived from biotechnology as safe to eat as foods produced using conventional crops?
Yes. Federal regulatory agencies ensure the safety of biotechnology foods, and biotech plants and foods are among the most tested in history.
The ultimate scientific authorities recognized in this country, such as the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science1, the American Dietetic Association, the American Medical Association, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization have concluded that foods with biotech-derived ingredients pose no more risk to people than any other foods.
Biotech crops have been cultivated for more than 15 years, and foods derived from agricultural biotechnology have been eaten by billions of people without a single documented health problem. This is a remarkable food safety record, but not surprising, given the pre-market scrutiny and testing of biotech crops and foods.
3. Are crops developed using biotechnology safe for the environment?
Yes. Extensive scientific evaluation worldwide has not found any examples of ecological damage from biotechnology crops. In fact, the National Research Council6 has documented that, in addition to their safety, biotech crops contribute positively to farm sustainability in the United States, due to their environmental benefits and economic benefits to farmers.
Current crops designed to resist pests and tolerate herbicides have already cut chemical usage on farms significantly. Herbicide-tolerance promotes practices like no-tillage farming that reduce soil erosion, prevent water loss, and even limit release of greenhouse gases.
To ensure that a new plant is safe for the environment, extensive field-testing is conducted under USDA and EPA oversight.
4. Are the products of agricultural biotechnology regulated?
Yes. Biotechnology products in the United States are regulated according to the 1986 Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology.
Under the Coordinated Framework, agricultural biotechnology products are regulated by three agencies:
- U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees the interstate movement and field-testing of biotechnology-derived plants “regulated articles” to ensure that the environment is protected. A petition for “nonregulated status” must be granted by the USDA prior to commercial growth and sale of any bioengineered crop.
- The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for ensuring that pest-resistant biotech varieties are safe to grow and consume. It regulates environmental exposure to these crops to ensure there are no adverse effects to the environment or any beneficial, non-targeted insects and other organisms.
- The Food and Drug Administration imposes on foods developed through biotechnology the same regulatory requirements FDA uses to safeguard all foods in the marketplace. The FDA has both premarket and postmarket authority to regulate the safety and labeling of all foods and animal feed.
Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States, National Academies Press (2010), wherein the National Research Council of the National Academies concluded that “…crops with traits that provide resistance to some herbicides and to specific insect pests have benefited adopting farmers by reducing crop losses to insect damage, by increasing flexibility in time management, and by facilitating the use of more environmentally friendly pesticides and tillage practices.” http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12804
5. Do foods produced using biotechnology require special labeling?
No. The FDA's evaluation of a biotechnology food focuses on its characteristics, not the method used to develop it. A new biotechnology food that is “substantially equivalent” (meaning it has the same chemical composition and nutritional value to conventional varieties) does not require a special label.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration‟s regulations state that requiring the labeling of foods that are indistinguishable from foods produced through traditional methods would mislead consumers by falsely implying differences where none exist.
According to the 2010 Consumer Survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), consumer satisfaction with current information on food labels remains high. Only 18 percent of consumers supported additional info on food labels, with only three percent supporting the labeling of biotech foods.
6. Do most foods contain biotech ingredients?
More and more farmers in the United States and around the world are turning to biotechnology so they can grow plants that yield more per acre and are resistant to diseases and insect pests while reducing production costs and contributing to more environmentally friendly farming practices.
- In the United States, the majority of all the corn (86 percent), soybeans (93 percent) and cotton (93 percent) are grown using biotechnology.