President Joe Biden unveiled a new executive order on September 12 designed to advance biotechnology and biomanufacturing innovation, which could have a big impact on the food industry.

The order, the “National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative,” aims to provide innovative solutions in several sectors, including health, climate change, energy, food security, agriculture, supply chain resilience, and national and economic security.

Among its goals are to determine how biotechnology and biomanufacturing can boost biomass production, which would help to limit food waste, increase food quality, and identify ways to produce alternative food sources. Under the executive order, the Secretary of Agriculture has 180 days to submit a plan on ways these tasks can be accomplished.

Charles R. Santerre, PhD, professor of food, nutrition, and packaging sciences at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C., who also previously served as a senior policy advisor for agriculture and health in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, says that Biden’s new executive order is a smattering of different pieces, but until a plan is activated and action is taken, it’s hard to know what it will accomplish.

One thing Dr. Santerre does expect to happen is that GMOs will play a larger role in sustainability and in improving the food supply chain. “What we’ve seen in the environmental benefits are five things: less pesticide usage, less erosion in the fields, dramatically increased yields, products being developed with drought resistance, and extended shelf life of some of the products, which can lead to less food waste,” he tells Food Quality & Safety. “Consumers get benefits also, such as better nutrient profiles, better flavor texture appearance, and increased safety.”

Another part of the executive order deals with humane production of animals through biotech. “Biotechnology has easily demonstrated how it can grow the economy and it is an important area that can make our foods become safer,” Dr. Santerre says.

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