The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)



Case Studies in Benefits and Risks of Agricultural Biotechnology: Bt Corn and Roundup Ready Soybeans


Janet Carpenter, Gianessi, National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy





This paper examines the current state of knowledge on the benefits and risks of agricultural biotechnology for two crops in which the technology has been adopted widely: corn and soybeans. These case studies are intended to illuminate the debate on whether the introduction and regulation of the technology has been socially optimal.

Social welfare is impacted through effects on consumers, producers and the environment. The benefits and risks to each group are outlined and quantified where possible. The two cases presented represent the broad range of both benefits and risks involved in commercialized genetically modified crop varieties. Benefits include reductions in production costs, lower prices to consumers, reductions in pesticide use, shifts to more benign pesticides, and potential human health effects due to decreased crop contamination with fungal pathogens. Assumptions underlying calculated benefits are based on national and local level survey data, field trials and laboratory studies.

Risks include impacts on human health (allergenicity, toxicity), development of pesticide resistance, out-crossing, non-target effects, and the development of antibiotic resistance. The risks of agricultural biotechnology are examined in the context of the regulatory framework that governs the introduction of genetically modified crops in the U.S. The majority of risk studies that have been conducted on these new crop varieties has been conducted by the developers of the technology in order to meet requirements of the regulatory agencies. Regulatory requirements for risk studies are described for each of the agencies. The results of these studies are reviewed.


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