| 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
- 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
- Peanuts with reduced levels of
Several federal agencies have been involved
in determining the safety of biotechnology in food production,
including the FDA,
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