The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to start outsourcing research used in the review of new plant seeds to outside consultants and biotech companies seeking government approval.

The pilot program comes as the seed industry complains the agency is taking too long to approve new products it says are needed at a time of surging crop prices and growing world food demand. Opponents of genetically modified crops, however, contend the USDA shouldn't be looking to streamline a process that already isn't doing enough to detect possible dangers.

Biotech companies spend heavily on developing new seeds that can yield larger crops by making a plant resistant to a specific pest or tolerant of a certain herbicide. Before going to market, the USDA reviews a product to ensure it won't itself become a problem that potentially contaminates other fields or causes additional environmental problems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also look at issues surrounding new seed proposals.

For more, see: USDA Outsources Research As Seed Industry Seeks Faster Review