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Looking Back at 2016: Ag Biotech

December 20, 2016
2016 was a year of challenges and accomplishments for the agriculture biotechnology industry. Issues ranging from GMO labeling to cultivation bans to trade were just few of the topics up for debate.

Below are 5 noteworthy events that happened in 2016, making it a memorable year for the industry.

  1. GMO Disclosure Law - President Barack Obama signed into law on Friday, July 29, a bill that will require labeling of genetically modified ingredients for the first time. The biotech bill mandates disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients but will allow companies to do it through scannable smartphone codes as an alternative to on-package text or symbol. The legislation is intended to nullify Vermont's first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law, which went into effect July 01, 2016 and already forced major companies to start disclosing GMO ingredients on product packages. This was a historic bill for the industry which impacted the entire agriculture sector from farm to table. For more information, the news was covered in Fortune, The Washington Times, The Huffington Post, ABC News, NBC News, The National Law Review, Farm Futures, AgWeb, Supermarket News, among others. BIO's release can be found here.

  2. Key Study Reaffirms Safety of GMOs - On May 17, 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released its report, Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects, which examined the purported health, safety, economic, agronomic, and other effects of genetically engineered (GE) crops since their commercial introduction in the 1990s, as well as potential future applications of genetic engineered. Produced through an rigorous independent study process, the report found that no "substantiated" evidence exists that genetically engineered crops have caused health problems in humans or damaged the environment - a common argument made by anti-GMO activists. The Washington Post covered the report here. BIO's release NAS Report Upholds Safety of GE Crops and Foods can be read here.

  3. GE Mosquitoes to be Released in Florida KeysIn a 3-2 vote on November 19, 2016, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District approved the trial of Oxitec's genetically modified mosquitoes to curb the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like Zika, Chikungunya and dengue. In Summer 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the okay for Florida Keys Mosquito Control District to test the use of a genetically modified mosquito to fight Zika transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Next steps will be to release genetically engineered (GE) male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes of the line OX513A in Key Haven, Monroe County, Florida. Read more here and learn about Oxitec's amazing technology to eradicate some of the world's deadliest diseases here

  4. GM Apples to be Marketed in Early 2017Arctic® apples are apples that have been modified to not brown when bitten, sliced, or bruised. Through biotech, Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF), creator of the Arctic® apple, was able to reduce the enzyme which causes browning in three of North America's top apple varieties and produce Arctic® Golden, Arctic® Granny, and Arctic® Fuji apples. After a deregulation process that took five years in the U.S. for the Arctic® Granny and Arctic® Golden, Arctic® Fuji was approved in October 2016 in just eight months. OSF announced that it plans on test marketing the Arctic Golden® apples in January and February of 2017, as well as where the recently approved Arctic Fuji fits into the equation. Read more here.

  5. USDA Approves Genetically Engineered Potatoes - On October 28, 2016, The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the commercial planting of two types of potatoes that are genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine. The approval covered Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co.'s Ranger Russet and Atlantic varieties of the company's second generation of Innate potatoes. Simplot's Innate® Generation 2 potatoes feature traits that address several of the major issues facing the potato industry including shrink from cold storage, late blight, sugar ends, sprouting, acrylamide and black spot bruise – providing significant benefits to the entire potato value chain. These potatoes are expected to enter the market in Spring 2017.