The studies also touch on the complexities of predicting the use of these products in the future.
"These reports will help us to better understand how biotechnology is changing the face of agriculture," said agriculture secretary Mike Johanns. "Enhancing our understanding of the marketing regulations of biotech products and how producers and consumers may be affected by the adoption of this technology will help to guide USDA's future decision-making in this area."
EU GM rules - (EC) 1830/2003 on the Traceability and Labelling of GMOs and (EC) 1829/2003 on Genetically Modified (GM) Food and Feed - are much more stringent than US regulations, and reflect European consumer suspicions about food safety. Under the new rules, all foods which contain or consist of GMOs or which are produced from GMOs will have to be labelled regardless of the presence of GM material in the final product.
In contrast the NFPA (National Food Processors Association), a major voice of the food processing industry on scientific and public policy in the US, has long opposed such labelling and traceability requirements. The body has been actively lobbying the World Trade Organisation to address this issue, and take action to block what it sees as unnecessary barriers to trade.
In any case the first report, considers the proliferation of mandatory biotechnology traceability and labelling requirements in other countries, how different segments of the United States food and feed supply chain are addressing those requirements and marketplace issues and tools that are relevant to these developments.
The second report provides USDA with an analysis of the factors that will shape the use of biotechnology in the future. It identifies broad trends that are likely to influence the future in some predictable ways as well as key uncertainties that could drive the future in different directions.
The report also provides three examples of scenarios for the future, not as predictions but as tools to provoke thought and further analysis, plus a series of questions to help understand the impacts of each scenario. The questions can be applied to help analyse any scenario that may be developed.
The reports were developed by USDA's advisory committee on biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21), which examines how biotechnology is likely to change agriculture and USDA's work over the next five to ten years.
The 18-member committee represents a broad spectrum of views and interests and is composed of farmers, technology providers, academics, representatives from the food manufacturing and shipping industries, and representatives from consumer and environmental organisations. The committee meets in public session three to four times per year.
For copies of the reports and more information about the AC21, click here.