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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Opportunities for biotechnology and policy

item Kendra, David
item Dyer, Rex

Submitted to: Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development Workshop
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/28/2006
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Despite being introduced more than a decade ago, agricultural biotechnology still remains framed in controversy impacting both the global economy and international regulations. Controversies surrounding agricultural biotechnology produced crops and foods commonly focus on human and environmental safety, intellectual property rights, consumer choice, ethics, food security, poverty reduction, and environmental conservation. Originally, some consumers were reluctant to accept the first generation agricultural biotechnology products because they appeared to primarily benefit agricultural producers; however, it is clear from continued evaluations that these technologies also improved both the safety and wholesomeness of food, and helped improve the environment. Plants engineered to resist insect pests and tolerate less toxic pesticides resulted in improved yields, thereby enabling farmers to produce more food per acre while reducing the need for herbicides, pesticides, and water and tilling. An indirect benefit of reduced pest damage in transgenic corn expressing genes to control insect pests is lower levels of mycotoxins, most notably those caused by the genus Fusarium. Mycotoxins are an important regulatory issue globally because of their toxic and carcinogenic potential to humans and animals. Complicating this issue is the fact that toxicological databases for mycotoxins are relatively incomplete compared to other food contaminants. Current debates about agricultural biotechnology and mycotoxins reveal significant differences in perception of associated risks and benefits. When faced with uncertainty, regulators tend to set limits as low as possible. Additionally, some regulators invoke the “Precautionary Principle” when limited information is available, or disputes over interpretation exist for possible contaminants. A major concern regarding use of the “Precautionary Principle” is the appearance that regulators can justify setting any limit on the basis of inconclusive or unknown potential hazards of a contaminant, which could significantly impact global trade since mycotoxin residues vary widely between countries. This paper describes the current economic and health impact models for mycotoxins, and their impact by regulations on international trade.

Last Modified: 06/21/2017
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