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USDA Provides Grants to Assist in Making Science Based Biotechnology Risk Assessments

Media Contact: Scott Elliott, (202) 720-7185

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2011–The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded eight research grants to study the agricultural effects of genetic engineering. The projects support the development of science for regulatory decisions and other USDA policies and programs related to biotechnology. USDA awarded the grants through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“All types of agriculture – conventional, organic and genetically-engineered – play important roles in our agricultural system,” said Chavonda Jacobs-Young, acting NIFA director. “These grants will help inform sound, science-based decisions.”

USDA awarded the grants through the Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grants (BRAG) program, which was established in 1992. In addition to supporting research that assists federal regulatory decision-making, the BRAG program also supports conferences that bring together scientists, regulators and other stakeholders to review assessment data.

BRAG funding supports research in the following areas: identifying and developing practices to minimize risks associated with genetically engineered organisms; developing methods to monitor the dispersal of genetically engineered organisms; increasing knowledge about the characteristics, rates and methods of gene transfer that may occur between genetically engineered organisms and related wild and domesticated organisms; and providing analysis which compares impacts of organisms modified through genetic engineering to other types of production systems.

NIFA awarded $4 million for projects in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Washington. Project highlights include:

  • A project in Washington to examine the flow of pollen between “Roundup Ready” genetically-engineered alfalfa and conventional and organic varieties

  • A project in North Carolina to investigate the potential risks of releasing the transgenic New World screwworm fly Cochliomyia hominivorax in the United States, Mexico and South America

  • A project in Connecticut to study pollen flow in perennial grasses intended for biofuel use, such as switchgrass and miscanthus

A full list of awardees can be found online at: www.nifa.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2011news/brag_awards.html

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future.  More information is available at: www.nifa.usda.gov.

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