Position Statements on Biotechnology

American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB)

Website: http://www.aspb.org


Technical advances in agriculture, coupled with time-honored methods, provide the best opportunity for world food supplies to meet the demands of an ever-growing world population, while protecting our environment and natural resources. The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) submits this statement supporting the continued, responsible use of new technologies, such as recombinant DNA technology (hereafter referred to as "biotechnology"), which can add effective tools to those needed to combat hunger and maintain a healthy environment. ASPB also supports the continued use and further development of rigorous and responsible science-based procedures to assess the risks and benefits of the technology and its products.

The use of biotechnology to modify plants represents a significant advance in plant science, building on centuries of human involvement in the genetic modification of crop species. It allows for the transfer into a plant of specific, characterized genes under known regulatory control. The precision of this technology and the knowledge of the specific nature of the manipulated genetic information make the effects of this type of gene transfer more predictable than the random mixing of genes that occurs during classical breeding.

The rapid adoption of the first generation of these crops, made tolerant to certain pests or herbicides, underscores the benefits that can accrue to users. Early data indicate that some farmers have realized reduced pesticide use, increased crop yield and easier weed control, leading to reduced soil tillage. Such advances can complement other sustainable agricultural practices and lead to significant environmental benefits, such as lowered soil erosion and reduced use of synthetic pesticides.

Modified crops resulting from plant biotechnology should provide major health benefits to people throughout the world. Examples include enhancing the vitamin and mineral content of staple foods, eliminating common food allergens, developing higher protein quality and quantity in widely consumed crops and modifying edible plants to contain vaccines against many illnesses. In many cases, conventional breeding cannot achieve such improvements. Specially selected and modified plants are also being used in nonfood applications, such as phytoremediation, where plants remove contaminating pollutants from soils and water resources. Modified plants can also serve as biofactories to make compounds presently made using nonrenewable resources, e.g., industrial oils, fuels and plastics.

Responsible use of new plant biotechnologies could contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally compatible agriculture. Responsible development and use of modified plants are essential to protecting the quality of life and the environment for an ever-growing world population

Concerns raised by some interests about this technology and its products include food and environmental safety issues and socioeconomic and ethical matters. To the extent that scientific data can be gathered to address these concerns, the ASPB supports and encourages such investigations. Regulatory agencies now mandate extensive safety testing of new biotechnology-derived food products, testing which far exceeds that of foods created by classical breeding. Consumer confidence is paramount to the acceptance of the products of biotechnology. It is imperative that the extensive federal regulatory framework presently in place be maintained and regularly reviewed to determine whether additional scientific data are needed to address consumer concerns.

A number of expressed environmental concerns currently raised as potential problems with modified plants also should be considered. A number of these concerns also must be addressed with conventionally bred plants and traditional agricultural practices. Scientists and regulators must continue to guard against gene transfer to compatible wild species, development of pesticide-resistant insects and possible adverse effects on genetic diversity. Regulators, scientists and farmers should continue to maintain sufficient monitoring to assess the environmental effects of large-scale growth of crops modified through biotechnology. In addition to the oversight of modified crops by federal regulatory agencies, ASPB encourages rigorous independent studies by third-party researchers.
No technology is risk-free, and fear and mistrust often accompany the introduction of new processes and products. Growing crops utilizing organic practices or high-inputs of pesticides and practices is not risk free and neither is the application of biotechnology. The United States has adopted acceptable standards for the safety of organic production, high-input farming, conventional breeding and biotechnology.

To ensure the continuation of these standards of safety, ASPB strongly endorses the continued responsible development and science-based oversight of biotechnology and all food production technologies and practices. ASPB is dedicated also to providing science-based information needed for the government, the private sector, individuals, and other stakeholders to make informed choices about the products resulting from biotechnology. The ASPB believes strongly that, with continued responsible regulation and oversight, biotechnology will bring many significant health and environmental benefits to the world and its people.

International Support:

  1. International Organizations
  2. Africa
  3. Asia
  4. Europe
  5. North America
  6. Latin America
  7. Oceania

International Organizations

- Food and Agricultural Organization
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
- World Health Organization
- United Nations Development Programme
- United Nations Environment Programme
- Third World Academy of Sciences

- Agenda 21
- Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
- Vatican Pontifical Academy on Life

- International Council for Science Union

- International Life Sciences Institute


- International Society of African Scientists
- United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
- Africabio
- South African Minister Ngubane's statement at WSSD
- National Biotechnology Strategy for South Africa
- Former Kenyan President Moi's letter to US President Clinton

- Nigerian President Obasanjo's Statement


- Asian Development Bank
- Chinese Academy of Sciences
- Indian National Academy of Sciences
- National Academy of Science and Technology (Philippines)
- Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir's Speech at BioMalaysia 2002
- Policy Statement on Biotechnology (Philippines)


- Royal Society of London

- Prime Minister Blair's speech

- European Commission

- French Academy of Science

North America


United States of America

- American Medical Association
- American Society for Microbiology
- National Academy of Sciences
- National Research Council
- American Society of Plant Biologists
- Federation of Animal Science Societies
- American Midwest Farmers

  • American Agri-Women
  • American Soybean Association
  • National Chicken Council
  • National Corn Growers Association
  • National Cotton Council
  • National Milk Producers Federation
  • National Potato Council
  • National Turkey Federation
  • United Soybean Board


- Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee
- The Royal Society of Canada (The Canadian Academy of the Sciences and Humanities)
- Industry Canada (Federal Department of Industry)
- The 1998 Canadian Biotechnology Strategy: A Ongoing Renewal Process

Latin America

- Brazilian Academy of Sciences
- Mexican Academy of Sciences


- New Zealand Royal Commission

- Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
- Australia New Zealand Food Authority
- Australian Biotechnology: A National Strategy (2000)

- National Farmers' Federation

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