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Agricultural biotechnology is based on age-old principles of selective breeding. Farmers have used these processes for centuries to provide variety, improve productivity and to produce higher quality foods. Modern biotechnology allows food producers to do the same thing today, but with greater understanding and selectivity.

Whereas farmers have traditionally bred thousands of plants over many generations to obtain a desired trait, modern biotechnology now allows us to focus on particular genes in plants, rather than the entire plant, and to simply transfer only the desired trait. This offers farmers a more precise way to produce plants and foods that possess certain beneficial characteristics.

After a decade of research and development, the first whole food produced through modern biotechnology was introduced in 1994, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that a tomato developed through biotechnology was as safe as those bred by conventional means. Other food biotechnology products available, or soon to be available, in the U.S. include:

  • Grains, fruits and vegetables with pesticide-resistant and environmentally friendly herbicide-tolerant characteristics;
  • Grains and fruit that resist viruses that cause loss of yield and crop quality;
  • Tomatoes that ripen more slowly, giving them more flavor, color and texture;
  • Grains, fruits and vegetables that contain more nutrients, such as proteins, vitamins and minerals, and have reduced fatty acid profiles;
  • Modified potatoes that contain less starch and water, making for a healthier french fry or potato chip; and
  • Peanuts with reduced levels of allergens.

Several federal agencies have been involved in determining the safety of biotechnology in food production, including the FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Additionally, the safety of biotechnology has been supported by numerous national and international health organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Dietetic Association, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization.