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Improving farming for the environment, end users and farmers

Biotech in agriculture includes tools that modify crops to improve the plant for specific agricultural uses or make the end product better for consumers. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) refer to plants that are genetically enhanced with traits from other organisms to produce a superior crop.

The safety behind biotechnology

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), approximately 94% of U.S. soybean acreage is planted with seed enhanced by biotechnology. Before any biotech crop is widely planted, the new variety is closely evaluated by several regulatory bodies including the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make sure the crop is safe for consumers and the environment and will not impact natural systems.

close up of soybeans growing on a plant

Safe for other plants

The USDA and EPA study new plants that grow from biotech seeds to make sure new traits will not be transferred to other plants growing near crops – including weeds and wildflowers.

Safe for insects and animals

Biotechnology is used to make crops resistant to pests, herbicides, diseases and even drought. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the EPA review new biotechnology crop varieties to make sure they are safe for other organisms, especially the beneficial ones like honeybees and earthworms.

Safe for consumption

New traits are examined by the EPA and FDA to make sure there isn’t a potential for toxicity or an allergic response by animals or humans.

Tools to improve crops for everyone

Biotechnology tools include genetic engineering and traditional breeding methods. Crops may be improved to be resistant to pests or certain herbicides that are used to kill weeds. Other improvements directly benefit consumers, like enhanced nutritional profiles, reduction of allergens, longer shelf life and other attributes.

soybean field in foreground, sprayer in background

Gene editing

Through genetic engineering tools scientists can improve crops to better meet the needs of farmers and consumers. Gene editing involves changing specific parts of genetic code. One of the newest tools in the scientific community’s toolbox to help further crop enhancements is CRISPR, which is making gene editing faster than before. CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. By using CRISPR, scientists can more quickly find the section of the plant genome they want to change and add new DNA or remove current DNA to make the changes.
man standing in a soybean field looking as an ipad

Traditional breeding

By crossbreeding plants with desired traits, scientists have produced many new crop varieties. These traditional breeding methods, while still effective, can be a slow process as it takes many generations of plants to get the trait to clearly demonstrate itself. SOYLEIC® – a non-GMO, high-oleic soybean oil developed in Missouri – is one example of a new soybean variety developed using traditional breeding.

More sustainability, more opportunity with biotechnology

Crops enhanced with biotechnology help farmers to be more sustainable.

Improved crop protection

Biotechnology is used to make crops resistant to pests that destroy crops and tolerant of herbicides that are used to kill weeds. Biotechnology can also protect crops from diseases that are hard to control with other methods or withstand weather extremes like drought.

Better crop quality

Biotech crops can be more productive and higher quality. In addition, they can also be more nutritious for consumers. Through improving the end product, biotechnology supports a safe, abundant food supply.