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In Recent Issues

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Welcome to CSPI's Biotechnology page

The CSPI Biotechnology Project addresses scientific concerns, government policies, and corporate practices concerning genetically engineered (GE) plants, animals, and other organisms that are released into the environment or that may end up in our foods.

Genetic engineering allows specific genes isolated from any organism (such as a bacterium) to be added to the genetic material of a different organism (such as a corn plant). That differs from traditional plant and animal breeding in which the genes of only closely related organisms (such as a corn plant and its wild relatives) can be exchanged. That means that GE foods can carry traits that were never previously in our foods.

That unique technique for manipulating hereditary traits can provide significant benefits, but also raises environmental, food safety, and societal concerns. Genetic engineering has the potential to decrease adverse environmental effects of conventional agriculture, increase yields for farmers (especially in developing countries), improve the nutritional quality and taste of crops, and contribute to sustainable agriculture. Those benefits must be balanced against potential problems, such as the introduction of an allergen, the transfer of the engineered gene to other species, the emergence of pesticide-resistant pests, and the adverse effects on small farmers or developing nations.

As proponents and opponents of biotechnology have squared off, the debate has become highly polarized, with hyperbole often the rule and sound factual information the victim. Accurate identification of the risks and benefits of agricultural biotechnology, ensuring that the U.S. regulatory system is up to the task of preventing significant risk, and keeping the public informed are some of the goals of CSPI's Biotechnology Project.

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