Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture

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The Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture is an advisory committee to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to its charter:[1] "The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages and supports the responsible development and utilization of beneficial new agricultural products, including those produced through biotechnology, and assures the safety of new products with a science based regulatory approach. USDA has complex and crucial roles in protecting public health and safety, the natural environment, and a competitive, vibrant, and diverse farm economy; ensuring the quality and availability of our food and fiber supply and contributing to long-term global food needs; and maintaining a competitive position of American agricultural products in the international marketplace. These topics are complex and of crucial concern in the conduct of agricultural biotechnology research, regulation, and commercialization. USDA believes it is important to maintain an intensive and regular dialogue to explore and understand the broad array of issues related to the expanding dimensions and importance of agricultural biotechnology. Therefore, USDA is establishing the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) to provide information and advice to the Secretary of Agriculture on issues related to agricultural biotechnology."

Officers and Membership

AC21 has 20 to 25 members, including a Chairperson, who are appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Executive Secretary of the USDA Biotechnology Coordinating Committee.[2] Members serve terms of up to 2 years and may be reappointed by the Secretary of Agriculture. However, member may not serve more than six consecutive years on the AC21. AC21 may also have up to 7 ex officio members from federal and/or state government agencies outside of USDA. Ex officio members may participate in discussions but they may not vote.

According to the charter: "Members of AC21 will be knowledgeable in one or more of the following areas: recombinant-DNA (rDNA) research and applications using plants; rDNA research and applications using animals; rDNA research and applications using microbes; food science; silviculture and related forest science; fisheries science; ecology; veterinary medicine; the broad range of farming or agricultural practices; weed science; entomology; nematology; plant pathology; biodiversity; applicable laws and regulations relevant to agricultural biotechnology policy; risk assessment; consumer advocacy and public attitudes; public health/epidemiology; ethics, including bioethics; human medicine; biotechnology industry activities and structure; intellectual property rights systems; and international trade. Members will be selected in order to achieve a balanced representation of viewpoints to address effectively USDA biotechnology policy issues under consideration."

Current and Previous Members

The AC21's membership is as follows:[3]

2003 Appointees:

2004 Appointees:

2005 Appointees:

2006 Appointees:

2007 Appointees:

2008 Appointees:


The AC21 meets four times a year, or less frequently if the workload permits. The AC21 functions in an advisory role, and any actions taken as a result of the work of the AC21 will be made by the Secretary of Agriculture or "other appropriate full-time, salaried USDA officials as designated by the Secretary of Agriculture."

According to the charter:[4] "The AC21 will provide information and advice to the Secretary of Agriculture on topics related to the use of biotechnology in agriculture. The committee is charged with examining the long-term impacts of biotechnology on the U.S. food and agriculture system and USDA, and providing guidance to USDA on pressing individual issues, identified by the Office of the Secretary, related to the application of biotechnology in agriculture."


January 2009 Report on GE Animals

In January 2009, the AC21 sent a letter and a report to Edward Schafer, then Secretary of Agriculture, concerning genetically engineered animals. The letter read, in part:[5]

"In March 2008, we began our work on the following charge: Genetically engineered (GE) food animals are being developed in the U.S. and abroad for food and non-food uses. What regulatory issues should the U.S. government consider with regard to the potential development and commercialization of these animals and the products produced from them? Since USDA's legal authorities extend beyond regulation to research, education and marketing, what issues pertaining to GE animals will USDA need to consider when exercising these authorities? How might the views of different stakeholders be obtained and considered?"

The report, which was attached to the letter, covered the question stated above. However, the report is not posted on the AC21 reports website.

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