NABC Report 03: Agricultural Biotechnology at the Crossroads Biological Social & Institutional Concerns

Permanent URI for this collection

Published 1991 by NABC.

Focusing on the theme “Agricultural Biotechnology at the Crossroads,” the meeting offered the opportunity to assess the current status and potential future impacts of agricultural biotechnology. How can agricultural biotechnology be safely used to enhance productivity in agriculture?

  • The choice and development of agricultural production systems should be made with society’s environmental goals in mind.
  • Concern for the environment and limited global resources will play a major role in determining acceptable agricultural production decisions in the future.
  • Secure funding may assist in shifting the national planning horizon to the long term.
  • Socioeconomic studies designed to reveal societal preference patterns also should be funded.

There is a need for open discussions on the potential impact of agricultural biotechnology and its economic and humanitarian impact: on the one hand, agricultural biotechnology should be examined within the context of broader social goals—such as chemical-free agriculture. On the other, the future of agricultural biotechnology has an impressive portfolio of products. However, the public needs to be better informed about the associated risks and benefits with new agricultural products.

Speakers covered biological breakthroughs and bottlenecks and the frustrations and obstacles facing rapid development and release of new agricultural biotechnology products, such as time delays associated with field testing.

To counteract institutional incentives and impediments to agricultural biotechnology, there was a call for a shorter and less costly regulatory framework based on the products of agricultural biotechnology rather than on the research-discovery process. While companies have little incentive to invest in research without sufficient reassurance that they can recoup costs through ownership of products, university scientists have strong incentives to publish and patent research. Since the state of intellectual property protection in the United States is quite extensive, university and government laboratories must play an ever increasing role in doing research in biotechnology that may not lead to a definitive product.


  • Herbicide tolerance in crops—addressed “What is the probable role of herbicide tolerant crops in agricultural production?” and “What are the benefits and risks associated with their use?”
  • Transgenic animals—examined the technical difficulties, achievements and physiological consequences of producing transgenic animals. Moral and ethical issues, and health and food safety concerns were raised.
  • Animal growth promotants—assessed the biological, socioeconomic, health and safety, environmental quality and communications problems associated with the commercialization of animal growth promotants.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 32
  • Item
    Biotechnology and the environmental vision
    Mellon, Margaret G. (NABC, 1991)
    The agricultural biotechnology industry is approaching a genuine crossroads in the area of commercialization. If the government cannot come up with protective, credible regulatory programs soon, transgenic products will not reach the marketplace and agricultural biotechnology will suffer a major setback. And, there should be a focus on low-input sustainable agriculture, not the course of a particular technology. Biotechnology should be in second place after sustainable agriculture.
  • Item
    The past and future of agricultural biotechnolgy
    Anderson, Walter Truett (NABC, 1991)
    There are many ways that biotechnology can contribute to the needs of small farmers in economically disadvantaged areas.
  • Item
    Workshop reports
    Granados, Robert R.; Hinkle, Maureen K.; Fehr, Walter R.; Goldberg, Rebecca; Fearn, Jeffrey C.; Swinnen, Johan F.; Murray, James; Thompson, Paul B.; Piggott, Roley; Byers, Floyd M.; Zepeda, Lydia; Klotz, Cassandra (NABC, 1991)
    Workshop discussions on herbicide tolerant crops, biological control of pests, transgenic animals, and animal growth promotants.
  • Item
    Workshop recommendations
    Swan, Patricia B. (NABC, 1991)
    Workshop recommendations. Professor Swan ties it all together.
  • Item
    Piggott, Roley; Fearn, Jeffrey C. (NABC, 1991)
    A short overview over meeting presentations and workshop discussions and recommendations.
  • Item
    Agricultural biotechnology at a crossroads
    (NABC, 1991)
    Focusing on the theme “Agricultural Biotechnology at the Crossroads,” the meeting offered the opportunity to assess the current status and potential future impacts of agricultural biotechnology. How can agricultural biotechnology be safely used to enhance productivity in agriculture?
  • Item
    Beta agonists
    Hutcheson, David P. (NABC, 1991)
    Beta agonist are compounds that can influence the quality and fat content of meat. Their development for use by the meat producing industry promises savings in production cost for the famer.
  • Item
    Animal growth biotechnolgy PST perspective: Who benefits?
    Lemieuz, Catherine M. (NABC, 1991)
    PST stimulates growth in pigs but is inactive in humans. It has been found to increase rate of growth, improve feed efficiency, and increase leanness in finishing hogs. Use of PST increases profits for all size operations, types of farms, regardless of the farm programs investigated.
  • Item
    Ban on growth promotants in the EEC - The anatomy of a technical trade barrier
    Terry, Martin K. (NABC, 1991)
    Different perceptions and consumer expectations influence the traade in transgenic organisms between nations.
  • Item
    The develoment of sheep expressing growth promoting transgenes
    Murray, James D; Rexroad Jr., Caird R. (NABC, 1991)
    The production of transgenic animals raises a number of legal or paralegal questions, both in the United States and in the international arena. E.g., in the United States it is legal to patent a transgenic animal, but in Europe it is not. This raises a number of issues. How different must two lines of transgenic animals be for separate patents to be issued? How are patents on livestock going to be enforced in a loosely regulated industry such as farming? What are the consequences in terms of international trade?