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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Biotechnology


The office seeks to maintain open markets for U.S. products derived from modern biotechnology. Agricultural biotechnology helps farmers increase yields, enabling them to produce more food per acre while reducing the need for chemicals, pesticides, water, and tilling. This provides benefits to the environment as well as to the health and livelihood of farmers. Through specific design, biotechnology also can be used to enhance the nutritive value of staple foods to improve overall nutrition and health.

Agricultural biotechnology holds great promise to boost food production in both the developed and the developing world and to reduce agricultural vulnerability to the impact of pests, viruses, and drought. It is, as a result, an important tool in the world's effort to combat food insecurity and malnutrition.

The Department of State works with a host of other agencies and organizations to promote acceptance of this promising technology.

The Challenges and Benefits of Biotechnology

Increasing Food Security
The world’s population is expected increase from its current 6.7 billion to over 9 billion by 2050, and we need to more than double our current agricultural production levels in order to feed a population of that size. In order to sustainably feed the world, we need to develop farming methods that are environmentally benign and can cope with climate change while increasing the wellbeing of farmers. Agricultural technologies have a number of benefits, including reduced insecticide use, reduced erosion, increased tolerance to environmental disasters such as droughts and floods, and improved nutritional composition that can supplement diets of farmers around the world. For example, the BioCassava Plus project focuses on decreasing malnutrition in Africa by increasing the micronutrient composition in cassava, a staple food in many African countries. While not a silver bullet, biotechnology can facilitate increase agricultural production and rural incomes.

International Acceptance
As of 2011, 59 countries have approved the use of biotech crops, and 29 countries have approved local cultivation of genetically-engineered crops (eight of these nations are in Europe). Of the 29 nations currently farming biotech crops, 19 were developing nations (accounting for 48 percent of total biotech crops) and 10 were industrialized nations. However, one of the challenges to international acceptance is the public perception of the safety of biotech products. Foods derived through advanced agricultural technology undergo extensive risk assessment procedures by a variety of national bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration. Biotech crops also undergo analysis by international entities such as the European Food Safety Agency. Any biotech crops approved by these bodies have been designated as safe for both people and the environment. International acceptance will continue to grow as science-based regulations are developed regarding the cultivation and trade of biotech crops, facilitating their growth in trade and farming and increasing recognition for the benefits they offer to the world.


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