USDA: Information on Classical Plant and Animal Breeding Activities

GAO-07-1171R Published: Sep 13, 2007. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 2007.
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This report responds to a Congressional request for information on activities related to classical plant and animal breeding--creating an organism with desirable traits through controlled mating and selection without the insertion of genes from another species--that occurs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Within USDA, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) are the primary scientific research agencies involved in classical plant and animal breeding activities. ARS has more than 100 research facilities in the United States and abroad and received about $1.3 billion in funding for fiscal year 2006. ARS conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems, and its research partners include universities; crop, horticultural, and livestock producer and industry organizations; state, federal, and other research agencies or institutions; private companies; and international agricultural research centers. CSREES, which received about $1.2 billion in funding for fiscal year 2006, has the primary responsibility for providing linkages between the federal and state components of a broad-based, national agricultural research, extension, and higher education system. As Congress has noted, classical breeding is important to agricultural producers as they seek to meet changing environmental conditions and shifting consumer demands. Congress raised concerns about the difficulty of quantifying public resources being dedicated to classical plant and animal breeding and asked us questions about these resources. Specifically, GAO was asked the following: (1) What USDA resources and personnel are devoted to classical plant and animal breeding activities, and what is USDA's budget for research and development of genetically engineered plant and animal varieties? (2) What is the total level of funding dedicated to USDA-funded extramural classical plant and animal breeding initiatives and research projects, and what are the specific initiatives and research projects? (3) What percentage of the overall USDA research budget goes to develop and release new, publicly held plant and animal varieties? What is the budget trend? (4) How many USDA-funded plant and animal breeders (scientist-years) using classical methods are there, and how many new varieties have they released in the last 2 years? (5) How many different varieties of nongenetically engineered or nonpatented corn, canola, soy, and cotton have been released and grown in the United States? (6) To what extent are breeding lines being imported from other countries? (7) How much public access is there to plant and animal germplasm? What barriers, if any, limit public access to germplasm?

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