Tending the Fields examines the role of state governments in the regulatory oversight of crops and foods produced using the tools of modern biotechnology.
Not surprisingly, most states with large agricultural sectors are intensely interested in the economic promise of agricultural biotechnology. Many are eager to capture the economic development and growth potential of a new technology that could provide added value to low-priced commodity crops. States recognize, however, that such economic benefits could be jeopardized if public anxiety or market access for conventional crops is threatened. As a result, states have an important stake in the regulation of agricultural biotechnology not only to protect health and safety, but also to advance and protect important economic interests. Although they tend to defer to the scientific and technical expertise at the federal regulatory agencies on safety issues, states generally want to be a full partner with federal regulators to ensure that state interests are adequately addressed.
The report documents diverse and innovative state approaches to developing policies that take into account local interests and issues. It contains a number of examples of state responses, including efforts by Colorado to develop a public participation process for the consideration of “pharmaceutical” crops, a North Carolina initiative to develop identity preservation criteria for both biotech and conventional tobacco crops, and the efforts in a number of states to develop their own regulatory approaches.