What kind of government oversight are GM crops subject to?

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I have heard claims that GM crops are not heavily regulated by the government. What kind of government oversight are GM crops subject to?

This is simply not true. Foods developed through biotechnology are the most well tested and highly regulated foods in history. Every GM crop we sell has been through rigorous testing and been reviewed by the multiple regulatory agencies worldwide that are responsible for ensuring the safety of our food.

U.S. regulations for GM (genetically modified) crops were laid out in the 1986 ‘Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology’ (US OSTP, 1986). The framework gave authority to three principal regulatory agencies to conduct science-based assessments of risks to human health and the environment posed by GM crops: the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The USDA regulates the import, interstate movement, field trial release, and commercial release of GM crops under the Federal Plant Pest Act and the Plant Quarantine Act, which are administered   by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Prior to approval for commercialization, the USDA/APHIS must determine that the GM crop is not a plant pest. The EPA has regulatory oversight for all GM crops that produce a plant pesticide. Plant-incorporated pesticides are regulated according to the same procedures as other pesticides.

The FDA has authority over human food and animal feed safety and the wholesomeness of all plant products, including those produced via genetic modification, under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. The FDA has concluded that food and feed derived from GM crops pose no unique safety concerns and, therefore, that the food and feed products derived from these plants should be regulated no differently than comparable products derived from traditional plant breeding or any other genetic modification approach (US FDA, 1992).

In summary, the USDA’s approval process and the EPA’s regulatory oversight ensure that there   are no unreasonable risks of harm to human health or the environment, including the following:

  • Studies assessing the risks to human health (including but not limited to toxicity and allergenicity)
  • Studies assessing risks to non-target organisms and the environment
  • The potential for gene flow
  • The need for insect resistance management plans

Globally, since 1996, 59 different countries including Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, the European Union, Philippines, Taiwan, and South Africa, have granted a total of 2,497 approvals of which 1,129 are for food use, 813 are for feed use, and 555 are for commercial planting.

After 30 years of research and assessments, the safety of GM crops is strongly supported by the weight of scientific evidence, as well as the conclusions of the global scientific community. In fact,   GM crops have been reviewed and tested more than any other crops in the history of agriculture and have been shown to be as safe as conventional crops.

When it comes to issues as important as the safety of our food we take our commitments very seriously. As always, Monsanto Hawaii remains committed to adhering to these strict government oversights as the safety of our products remains our highest priority.