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NIFA to Invest in Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced a competitive opportunity to conduct research on the environmental effects of genetically engineered (GE) organisms, including plants, animals, insects, and microorganisms. The $3.5 million in grants is available through NIFA’s Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants (BRAG) Program.

The BRAG program supports applied and fundamental research to help federal regulators evaluate the effects of GE organisms on their environment. Proposals are solicited to support standard research projects or conference proposals that bring together stakeholders to discuss and evaluate science-based data relevant to environmental risk assessments or risk management related to biotechnology-developed organisms.

“It is important that we base policy decisions around evidence-based, high-quality science that analyzes the risks of introducing new biotechnologies,” said Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA Director. “Funding will give policymakers and regulators the information they need to continue making decisions that keep the American people and our food supply safe.”

Eligible applicants include a broad range of public or private research or educational institutions. This includes 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 must be received by Dec. 21, 2017, and applications must be received by Feb. 22, 2018. Please see the BRAG request for applications for details.

In previous BRAG projects, University of Tennessee (link is external) researchers measured armyworm resistance to genetically engineered corn and cotton varieties with genes for an insecticidal proteins from bacteria that occur naturally in soil. The research has helped create new monitoring methods to help farmers detect, monitor, and predict the movement of these pests. Another project at North Carolina State University (link is external) looked for ways to stop the northward spread of screwworm from South America. During the past century, the presence of screwworm cost the U.S. livestock industry an average of $20 million annually. As a result, the team developed and evaluated a sterile male screwworm strain to help manage the buffer zone along the Panama-Colombia border.

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