Testing by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center has not found any trace of the promoters associated with Bt corn. However, sampling and analysis performed by Mexico's National Institute of Ecology indicated the presence of transgenes in landraces in two states, but even these results were the subject of controversy. Further testing may confirm these results, but to date, there is little reason to believe that large-scale gene flow has occurred or that is has harmed the biodiversity of landraces, which themselves have been genetically manipulated by Mexican farmers for generations.
What is "terminator" technology?
Terminator technology refers to research of seeds/plants that produce sterile seeds. While research of this technology has been conducted in conjunction with the USDA, no agricultural biotechnology company currently uses this technology. In the future, this technology could be used to prevent any gene flow between biotechnology and traditional crops.
Can biotechnology play a beneficial role in aquaculture?
Yes. Using biotechnology, developments in the field of aquaculture will allow a high-quality source of food to be brought to market more quickly, reduce the price to consumers, and eliminate the demand to overfish wild stocks. For example, AquaAdvantage® salmon, developed by Aqua Bounty Farms, can grow from egg to market size (6 to 10 pounds) in 12 to 18 months. Fish produced using conventional fish-breeding techniques normally require two to three years.
Federal regulatory agencies will require rigorous testing for food and environmental safety. New biotechnology salmon varieties could make fish farming more sustainable, decrease overfishing of wild salmon and lower consumer costs. As sterile females are used, there is little risk to wild stocks should these fish escape to the wild.
Aqua Bounty expects to introduce the AquaAdvantage® salmon within two to three years to a public for whom salmon is an increasingly popular food.
To learn more about biotechnology and aquaculture, click here (scroll down to "Aquaculture").
Can agriculture biotechnology assist in meeting the food demands of a growing global population?
Yes. Agricultural biotechnology can be a key element in the fight against hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.
Today, an estimated 800 million people do not have access to sufficient supplies of food. By 2030, the global population is expected to reach, if not exceed, 8 billion people, putting a further strain on food supplies. But while world population is expected to grow rapidly, particularly in developing countries, the amount of available agricultural land is limited. Only 10 percent of the world's land surface is arable, and overfarming and soil erosion are growing problems in some areas.
To overcome these dynamics, farmers will need to find ways to grow more food using less land. The National Academies and six other international scientific organizations recently issued a report discussing the role of biotechnology in meeting global food needs. It concluded that, "GM technology, coupled with important developments in other areas, should be used to increase the production of main food staples, improve the efficiency of production, reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, and provide access to food for small-scale farmers." Other groups-including the International Food Policy Research Institute, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Nuffield Council on Bioethics-have issued similar findings.
Biotechnology already is beginning to make a contribution. For example:
"Golden rice," enriched with beta carotene, will help combat vitamin-A deficiency, a major cause of blindness in the developing world. (A similar strain of rice has been enriched with iron to ward off anemia.). A "golden mustard" also may yield provitamin A-enriched cooking oil.
New varieties of corn, sorghum and wheat are being developed to provide more lysine, an important dietary protein.
"Pharma foods" are being developed that may help prevent or cure diseases such as cholera and diarrhea, leading causes of infant mortality in developing countries.
Plants that resist viral pests, such as a new variety of African sweet potato that wards off the feathery mottle virus, can improve yields of important staple crops. Viral resistance also is being imparted to high-value cucurbit crops grown throughout Southeast Asia.
Foods with extended shelf lives can reduce food losses caused by spoilage.
Plants that resist toxic or salty soils will increase the areas available for farming in many regions of the world.
These are just a few examples of what biotechnology can do to improve the lives of people in the developing world. While not a total solution, biotechnology can play an important role in helping developing countries achieve food security.
To learn more about the role of biotechnology in meeting food challenges in the developing world, click here.