How is the public assured that the new products are safe for consumption and for the environment?
Questions abound regarding the safety of genetically manipulated agricultural products. These questions and concerns are usually focused on laboratory or "genetically engineered" products and not those developed through traditional plant breeding technologies involving the manipulation of traits using hand pollination.
While selective breeding and the production of food by microorganisms have been around for thousands of years, some people may find it mysterious or worrisome to move genetic material from one cell into another cell that may also be derived from a different species. Some of their questions range from concerns about allergic reactions, protecting the environment, the transfer of antibiotic resistance from one species to another, to fears about reducing the amount of biodiversity in the world.
Are there agencies in the US government that regulate the introduction and use of transgenic materials?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Drug Adminisitration (FDA) all have regulations that impact agricultural biotechnology. Which agency or agencies are involved depends on the type of technology used. An introduction of new genetic material into a different species will likely involve additional restrictions and pre-market testing than does the use of more traditional methods such as selective breeding. Most of these regulations relate to genetically engineered materials where genes from one cell have been inserted to create a new variety. Field testing for new varieties produced by selective pollination are not usually required to demonstrate consumer safety.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have the roles of imposing safety regulations and/or performance standards for pesticides, herbicides and genetically engineered crops. An example is the insertion of genetic material into plants to convey resistant to the herbicide, Roundup®(Monsanto). Roundup® can be sprayed on fields to eliminate weeds and other unwanted plants while not affecting the desired crop.