WASHINGTON, D.C. (Thursday, January 20, 2011) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture must maintain its course in support of science-based decisions for agricultural biotechnology products to meet future food production challenges, according to statements made today by key Congressional leaders.
The House Agriculture Committee hosted today a “public forum” to review the biotechnology product regulatory approval process. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and former USDA Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner answered questions from committee members regarding the Department’s approach to biotech regulation.
Jim Greenwood, president and chief executive officer for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued the following statement in response to comments made at today’s forum:
“We applaud Chairman Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Peterson (D-Minn.) for convening today’s forum and emphasizing the importance of our science-based regulatory system for agriculture biotechnology. We welcome the strong commitment Secretary Tom Vilsack expressed at the forum to adhere to science-based decisions and to find ways to streamline the lengthy decision-making process, which currently impedes offering new technologies to America’s farmers.
“Along with Representative Lucas, U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) sent a letter on January 19 to Secretary Vilsack expressing concern that recent proposals by the USDA could politicize the regulatory process and could set a harmful precedent for biotech crops in the future if pursued.
“While the most pressing concern is for USDA to move forward with the deregulation of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa – which Secretary Vilsack has repeatedly confirmed is safe – we know that the Department’s decision on this will greatly impact how biotech products are reviewed in the future and whether farmers will have continued access to this beneficial technology.
“Since 1996, agricultural biotechnology has allowed growers to produce more food, feed and fiber on less land, often with significant environmental benefits. Biotechnology can help crops thrive in drought-prone areas, can improve the nutrition content of foods and can improve the lives of farmers and rural communities around the globe.
“We cannnot jeopardize these achievements now. Our regulatory system already serves as a model for other countries that are just starting to embrace this science – and we must not call its criteria into question now. Potential policy changes would also impact our American farmers, putting them at a competitive disadvantage to farmers in other countries where biotech crops are widely grown.
“The current litigious environment is untenable for U.S. agriculture. We hope USDA will focus more attention on the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and other applicable statutes when reviewing genetically engineered products, and base its decision-making on sound science.”
*More Information on coexistence practices is posted at http://bio.org/foodag
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