The office seeks to maintain open markets for U.S. products derived from modern biotechnology. Agricultural biotechnology helps farmers increase yields, enabling them to produce more food per acre while reducing the need for chemicals, pesticides, water, and tilling. This provides benefits to the environment as well as to the health and livelihood of farmers. Through specific design, biotechnology can also be used to enhance the nutritive value of staple foods to improve overall nutrition and health.

Agricultural biotechnology holds great promise to boost food production in both the developed and the developing world and to reduce agricultural vulnerability to pests, viruses, and drought. It is, as a result, 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 Challenges and Benefits of Biotechnology

Increasing Food Security

The world’s population is expected increase from its current 6.7 billion to over 9 billion by 2050, and we need to more than double our current agricultural production levels in order to feed a population of that size. In order to sustainably feed the world, we need to develop farming methods that are environmentally benign and can cope with climate change while increasing the wellbeing of farmers. Agricultural technologies have a number of benefits, including reduced insecticide use, reduced erosion, increased tolerance to environmental disasters such as droughts and floods, and improved nutritional composition that can supplement diets of farmers around the world. For example, the BioCassava Plus project focuses on decreasing malnutrition in Africa by increasing the micronutrient composition in cassava, a staple food in many African countries. While not a silver bullet, biotechnology can facilitate increased agricultural production and rural incomes.

International Acceptance

As of 2014, genetic engineered crops were grown imported and/or used in 70 countries. Of the 28 nations currently farming biotech crops, 20 are developing nations, and 8 are industrialized nations. However, one of the challenges to international acceptance has been misinformation about the technology 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 increasing recognition of the benefits they offer to the world.

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