State Policy Priorities for Agricultural Biotechnology
The following expresses the agricultural values of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and its more than 1,000 member companies located across the United States and in 33 countries.
BIO supports growers' right to choose what crop varieties to plant, including those improved through biotechnology.
- Growers nationwide have embraced biotech crops: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects that 38 percent of all corn, 70 percent of all cotton and 80 percent of all soybeans grown in the United States in 2003 are biotech varieties.
- Today biotech plant products offer growers the ability to reduce pesticide use, minimize soil erosion, optimize land use and reduce cancer-causing fungal compounds (mycotoxins) in grains. Products are now in development with nutritional benefits for consumers.
BIO supports rigorous, science-based federal regulation of agricultural biotech products. This regulation is currently provided through a coordinated framework of government agencies, including U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Companies and research entities spend, on average, between two and ten years and $4 to $8 million to meet the full spectrum of testing and evaluation necessary for government approval and commercialization.
- A patchwork of state regulations often unnecessarily duplicates federal requirements.
BIO supports policies that foster research and development and have made the United States the world's leader in biotechnology advancements.
- More than 40 states have provisions to foster research and development and biotech clusters.
- Legislation and initiatives with no basis in science to prohibit ag biotech are at odds with states' economic interests.
BIO joins the American Medical Association and other scientific groups in its support of existing federal requirements for accurate and informative food product labeling that communicates to consumers information relevant to health, safety, and nutrition. The FDA has stated: "scientific evaluation of bioengineered foods continues to show that these foods, as currently marketed. . . are as safe as their conventional counterparts."
- The USDA National Organic Standards' labeling systems provides freedom of choice to consumers who prefer organic products.
- Inconsistent state labeling laws would not benefit growers or consumers—and may actually confuse consumers, increase food costs, and put growers' products from one state at a disadvantage with products from another state.
BIO supports the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which require a scientific basis for approval of agricultural products.
- International standards supported by the WTO ensure that consumers are supplied with food that is safe to eat and that health and safety regulations are not used to disguise protectionist trade policies.
- Evidence continues to mount that protectionist trade practices pervade the international community despite the fact that many scientific reports concluded that biotech plants and foods do not pose any new risks to human health or the environment and, in fact, may be safer than conventional foods due to the increased scrutiny they receive.
BIO supports current laws that protect growers and consumers. These existing laws can sufficiently address any potential allegation of physical or economic harm relating to agricultural crops. BIO opposes imposing strict liability standards on biotech seeds and crops.
- Existing regulations of the USDA, EPA and FDA already give the federal government broad enforcement authority to act if any crop were ever to pose a threat to the environment or pose an unreasonable health or safety risk.
- The issue of cross-pollination is not new or different for growers, nor is it unique to biotech plant varieties. Growers of specialty crops use "identity preservation" processes to manage cross-pollination from neighboring crops.
BIO supports consistent, international standards that allow for "adventitious presence (AP)"—or the incidental commingling of trace amounts of one type of seed, grain or food product with another that does not compromise food safety.
- The lack of clear international standards has disrupted the flow of trade. Some countries are considering threshold levels for AP that have no basis in science are unrealistically low compared with existing allowances. Such low thresholds are driven more by the increasingly sensitive sampling and detection technologies and, in some case, protectionist trade policies than reasons based in sound science to ensure safety.
BIO supports important research and development underway in the area of plant-made pharmaceutical and industrial products.
- Plant-based production of pharmaceutical and industrial compounds is an efficient and scalable method to produce proteins, allowing more capital to be invested in research and development, giving consumers access to these products faster.
- The federal government has recognized the potential of this production method and is actively engaged to oversee the safe development of such therapies. Several agencies within USDA and FDA regulate and monitor this technology, including USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) under the Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS), the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) and FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM).
BIO supports insurance coverage for products of agricultural biotechnology. To date, there has not been a single claim paid by an insurer for any injury, damage, expense, cost, loss or other legal obligation resulting from any defect or harm caused by use of an agricultural biotechnology product.
- Excluding biotechnology products from insurance could stifle innovation and curtail the ability of growers to employ more efficient, cost effective technologies as well as negatively impact academic research.
- A denial of coverage runs counter to the proven track record of safety afforded by the nearly two decade's worth of research, regulatory oversight, growing and consuming agricultural biotechnology products.
BIO supports the USDA National Organic Standards that focus on production practices.
- The USDA standards make allowances for trace amounts of non-organic material without compromising the organic certification.
- The issue of cross-pollination is not a new or different issue for growers, and occurs with biotech and traditional plant varieties. Growers of specialty crops have developed "identity-preservation" processes to manage cross-pollination. Such growers assume responsibility of meeting specified criteria and are rewarded with a premium price.
BIO supports the use of biotechnology to improve animal health, increase the productivity of our animals, and provide a new avenue for therapy production and disease treatment.
- Biotechnology is a more efficient, precise, controllable and predictable variation on the age-old practice of selective breeding which has been widely practiced by humans to develop domesticated livestock and companion animals.
- Scientists are now taking the next step and developing transgenic animals — animals with genes inserted from another organism — to provide solutions for disease treatment, organ transplant shortage and food production. For growers and consumers, transgenic animals offer the hope of increased supplies of meat, milk and eggs that are more nutritious and allow growers to raise animals with less feed and have less impact on the environment.