Biotech Traits

Many people would like to know exactly which genetically engineered foods are in the food supply. In the United States, the following foods may be found in the supermarket (as of January 2015). Note that refined oil and sugar do not contain DNA or protein, so even if the source plant was genetically engineered, these products are indistinguishable non-genetically engineered products.

  • Herbicide tolerant alfalfa is fed to some dairy cattle.
  • Herbicide tolerant canola is made into canola oil.
  • Herbicide tolerant and/or insect resistant field corn is made into corn oil, fed to livestock, and used in many processed foods.
  • Herbicide tolerant and/or insect resistant sweet corn is sold in small quantities.
  • Herbicide tolerant and/or insect resistant cotton is made into clothing or various other cotton products as well as cottonseed oil.
  • Virus resistant papaya is sold in Hawaii, with some of the fruits imported to mainland US.
  • Virus resistant crookneck squash is sold in small quantities.
  • Herbicide tolerant and/or insect resistant soybean is made into soybean oil and fed to livestock. A small amount of soybean has been engineered to have more nutritious oil. Soybean for tofu and other products for direct human consumption is generally not genetically engineered.
  • Herbicide tolerant sugar beet is made into sugar and fed to livestock.

Genetic engineering is a method, not a product, which means that there are many possible traits far beyond the well-known herbicide tolerant and insect resistant traits. Below, you can find a list of just some of the genetically engineered traits that have been created, organized by type. We’ll do our best to provide a short description of what gene was used to develop the trait of interest, with links to the relevant peer-reviewed article as well as a link to a fact-based summary in the news or a blog post if available. Of course, this is not an all inclusive list, as many traits are not published for a variety of reasons, or we simply may have not heard of it yet. Note that many of these traits have not been commercialized.

Have you read about an interesting trait that’s missing from this list? Please let us know, preferably with a link to a relevant peer-reviewed article. Fact-based popular press articles or blog posts are welcome as well.

Hungry for more? Find lists of biotech traits here:

Vitamin Enrichment and Consumer Oriented Traits

Vaccines and Medicines

Disease Resistance

Environmental Stress Resistant

Environmental Benefits

Insect Control

Weed Control

  • LibertyLink corn and soybean are tolerant to glufosinate herbicide.
  • Optimum GAT corn and soybean are tolerant to ALS-inhibitor category of herbicides.
  • Roundup Ready corn and soybean are tolerant to glyphosate.
In addition to the herbicide resistance traits that were developed by genetic engineering above, some herbicide resistance traits have been developed by breeding. A few are listed below:
  • Clearfield and IMI corn was developed by selection to be tolerant to imidazolinone herbicides. Some IMI varieties also are tolerant of some sulfonylurea and sulfonamide herbicides.
  • Poast corn was developed by selection to be tolerant to sethoxydim herbicides.
  • STS soybean was developed by selection to be tolerant to sulfonylurea herbicides.