The Office of Agricultural Policy (AGP) works to keep markets open for U.S. products derived from modern biotechnology. Biotechnology benefits both farmers and the environment by producing more food per acre while conserving water and reducing the need for chemicals, pesticides, and tilling. Biotechnology can also be used to enhance the nutritive value of staple foods, thereby improving overall nutrition and health.
Agricultural biotechnology holds great promise to boost food production in both the developed and the developing worlds by reducing agricultural vulnerability to pests, viruses, and drought. Agricultural biotechnology is 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 understanding of this promising technology.
The Benefits and Challenges of Biotechnology
The world’s population is expected increase from its current 7 billion to over 9 billion by 2050. To meet that challenge, global food production must more than double and be environmentally sustainable. Agricultural technologies have a number of benefits, including reduced insecticide use, reduced erosion, increased tolerance to droughts and floods, and improved nutrition. For example, the BioCassava Plus project focuses on decreasing malnutrition in Africa by increasing the vitamin content of cassava, a staple food in many African countries.
Increasing Understanding and Acceptance
As of 2017, genetically engineered crops were grown in 24 countries while 43 additional countries imported these crops. Of the countries that grow biotech crops, ten are in Latin America, two are in Africa, two in North America, two in Europe, and eight are in Asia. However, widespread misunderstanding persists about this technology, its safety, and the breadth of its potential. 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 and people experience the benefits.