NIFA Announces $4 Million in Funding for Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced the availability of up to $4 million for research to help federal regulatory agencies make science-based evaluations about the environmental effects of genetically engineered (GE) organisms including plants, animals, insects and microorganisms. This funding is made available through NIFA’s Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants (BRAG) Program.

“Policymakers need sound science to inform their decisions on the rapidly growing field of genetic engineering,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “In addition to helping enlighten regulatory decision makers, this funding also supports the conferences that bring together scientists, regulators and other stakeholders to examine critical topics on biotechnology and risk assessment.”

The BRAG program supports applied and fundamental research to help federal regulators evaluate questions on hazard potential, severity and extent of potential hazards, and other effects of GE organisms. BRAG proposals may support standard research or conference proposals that bring together stakeholders to review science-based data relevant to risk assessment or risk management related to genetic engineering.

Research proposals can be applied or fundamental and must address one of the following five program areas: management practices to minimize environmental risk of GE organisms; methods to monitor and understand the dispersal of GE organisms; gene transfer to domesticated and wild relatives; environmental impacts of GE in the context of production systems; and other research topics that will further the purposes of this program.

Eligible applicants include a broad range of public or private research or educational institutions including land grant universities, Hispanic-Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities, eligible Insular Area Schools, and Alaska Native-Serving and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions of higher education.

Letters of intent are due by January 26, 2017 and proposals are due by March 30, 2017. See the BRAG request for applications for details.

Among previous BRAG projects, a team led by State University of New York (SUNY) scientist William Powell created the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project to revive the beleaguered American chestnut with the aid of biotechnology. Another project was awarded to the USDA-Agricultural Research Service worksite in Prosser, Wash., which examined ways to minimize the unintended presence of GE alfalfa in the Northwest and to bolster practices for co-existence between GE and non-GE alfalfa growers.

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