Genetically modified crops for the bioeconomy: meeting public and regulatory expectations

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As the United States moves toward a plant-based bioeconomy, a large research and development effort is focused on creating new feedstocks to meet biomass demand for biofuels, bioenergy, and specialized bioproducts, such as industrial compounds and biomaterial precursors. Most bioeconomy projections assume the widespread deployment of novel feedstocks developed through the use of modern molecular breeding techniques, but rarely consider the challenges involved with the use of genetically modified crops, which can include hurdles due to regulatory approvals, market adoption, and public acceptance. In this paper we consider the implications of various transgenic crops and traits under development for the bioeconomy that highlight these challenges. We believe that an awareness of the issues in crop and trait selection will allow developers to design crops with maximum stakeholder appeal and with the greatest potential for widespread adoption, while avoiding applications unlikely to meet regulatory approval or gain market and public acceptance.

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