A uniformly accepted definition of biotechnology does not exist. Under the broadest definition, the use of biological sciences to develop products, conventional plant and animal breeding techniques, conducted since the dawn of civilization, fall under biotechnology. In the popular press, biotechnology generally refers to newly-developed scientific methods used to create products by altering the genetic makeup of organisms and producing unique individuals or traits that are not easily obtained through conventional breeding techniques. These products are often referred to as transgenic, bioengineered, or genetically modified because they contain foreign genetic material. Agriculture is one of the first industries radically affected by this new technology on both a fundamental production level and a legal level. Read the full overview


Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, 7 U.S.C. §§ 1639-1639c

Labeling of Certain Food, 7 U.S.C. §§ 1639i-1639j

Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. §§ 301-399h

Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2629

Animal Health Protection Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 8301-8322

Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, 7 U.S.C §§ 136-136y

Virus-Serum-Toxin Act,21 U.S.C. §§ 151-159

Plant Protection Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 7701-7772

Plant Variety Protection Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2321-2583

Plant Patent Act, 35 U.S.C. §§ 161-164

Uniform Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, C.G.S. §§ 21a-91-125

Labeling of Food Produced with Genetic Engineering, 9 V.S.A. §§ 3041-3048


National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, 7 C.F.R. §§ 66.1-66.406

Genetically Engineered Plant Pest Regulations, 7 C.F.R. §§ 340.0-340.9

Plant Incorporated Protectant Regulations, 40 C.F.R. §§ 174.1-174.705

Plant Variety and Protection Regulations, 7 C.F.R. §§ 97.1-97.900

Federal Register Rules Open for Comment

Case Law

Case Law Index for Biotechnology

Administrative Law Decisions

Office of the Administrative Law Judges

USDA National Appeals Division

FDA Dockets Management

EPA Office of Administrative Law Judges

EPA Environmental Appeals Board

Center published USDA Judicial Officer’s Decisions

Center Research Publications

Non-GMO Labeling (E. and R. Rumley, 2012)

Nation-Specific Risk Tolerance in the WTO: US-Continued Suspension of Obligations in the EC-Hormones Dispute (Peck, 2009)

International Legal Issues Concerning Animal Cloning and Nanotechnology — More of the Same or Are “The Times They Are A-Changin'”? (Roberts, 2008)

Summary of the WTO Interim Report in EC-Biotech (Peck, 2006)

Revising Seed Purity Laws to Account for the Adventitious Presence of Genetically Modified Varieties: A First Step Towards Coexistence (Endres, 2005)

Farmers’ Guide to GMOs (Moeller, 2005)

The War on GMOs: A Report from the Front (Harbison, 2004)

Jack and the Beanstalk: Property Rights in Genetically Modified Plants (Busch, 2004)

J.E.M. Ag Supply v. Pioneer Hi-Bred Int’l: Its Meaning and Significance (Roberts, 2002)

Liability in Biotechnology (Kershen, 2002)

Congressional Research Service Reports

Reports– published and made available by CRS beginning in 2017

Subjects- published by CRS and made available by NALC until 2018:


Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Biotechnology:

Agribusiness Corporations
Environmental Issues
Food and Drug Law
Patents and Other Intellectual Property Rights in Agriculture
Sustainable and Organic Farming
Torts, Insurance

Congressional Resources

Reports on Biotechnology (Government Accountability Office)

Reference Resources

Economic Research Service (ERS)

Data: Adoption of Genetically Modified Crops in the U.S.
Key Topic: Biotechnology
Key Topic: Farm Practices & Management 
Key Topic: Trade & International Markets

Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

BE Disclosure & Labeling

List of Bioengineered Foods

 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Plant-Incorporated Protectants
Regulating Biopesticides

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Guidance for Industry: Voluntary Labeling Indicating Whether Foods Have or Have Not Been Derived from Genetically Engineered Plants
Consumer Info about Food from Genetically Engineered Plants
Foods Derived From Plants Produced Using Genome Editing
Food From New Plant Varieties
Labeling of Foods Derived from Genetically Engineered Plants
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN)
Animal and Veterinary Product Regulation

National Agricultural Library (NAL)

Research and Technology: Biotechnology
Plants and Crops: Agricultural Biotechnology, Plant Genetics, and Plant Breeding

Patent and Trademark Office(USPTO)

Manual of Patent Examining Procedure: 2400 Biotechnology
Plant Patent Application


What Can the Adoption of GM Foods Teach us About the Adoption of Other Food Technologies? (Mohorcich, Sentience Institute, 2018)
Food Processor and Retailer Non-GMO Standards in the US and EU and the Driving Role of Regulations (Food Policy, 2018)
Implementing the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard: Will Consumers Use QR Codes to Check for Genetically Modified (GM) Ingredients in Food Products?(Hallman & Tallapragada, AgBioForum, 2018)
Food Product Labeling Basics(Oklahoma State University Ext. Services, 2017)
Preparing for Future Products of Biotechnology (The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, & Medicine, 2017)
GMO Litigation(Laney, 2016)