June 01, 2014

Biosafety and Genetic Resources Laws Proliferate While New Industry Stewardship Initiatives Get Underway

Thomas P. Redick

Biotech crops were first marketed in the United States in 1995. American farmers swiftly adopted this agricultural technology for its increased productivity combined with herbicide and pest resistance—worth billions of dollars in saved costs. In 2013, an estimated 90 percent of all field corn, 93 percent of soybeans, and 75 percent of cotton (more than 90 percent of upland cotton) grown in the United States were produced with varieties bioengineered to resist insect pests or to tolerate certain herbicides. In parallel, while the United States and other major grain exporting nations were adopting biotech crop technologies, other nations began implementing the 2003 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (Biosafety Protocol) to the 1992 Rio de Janiero Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), an international law that would impose new regulatory requirements and establish liability for certain actions. The CBD, which is an international treaty, regulates living modified organisms (LMOs), which also are called “genetically modified organisms” by opponents and “genetically engineered” (GE) crops or simply “biotech crops” by proponents. As a result of the implementation of the Biosafety Protocol to the CBD, laws requiring premarket approval for shipping food and feed (or seeds for planting) have proliferated throughout the world.


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