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Agri-Pulse Asserts that Regulatory Delays are Smothering Biotech Innovation

July 30, 2014
Agri-Pulse recently published a notable guest opinion editorial by Mark Wagoner,a third generation farmer in Walla Walla County, Washington, and a volunteer board member for Truth About Trade & Technology.

Titled Biotech Regulatory Delays Smothering Innovation, Wagoner argues that Brazil is beating the rest of the planet in having an effective biotechnology regulatory system.  He comments that "no country approves safe crops with the newest ag biotech innovations with more speed than Brazil."

Where does the United States come in?  It takes substantially longer for the United States to approve new biotech crops  compared to that of Brazil.
"Just seven years ago, Brazil and the United States needed about the same amount of time to review new products in agricultural biotechnology: Brazil took a little less than 600 days and the United States took a little more. Brazil was more efficient, but at least the two countries were in the same ballpark-or on the same soccer pitch.

"Brazil, however, has worked hard to improve its methods. Since 2010, it has needed an average of just 372 days between first application and final approval. That's a year and a week.

"Meanwhile, U.S. regulators have raced in the opposite direction. They've behaved like Tim Howard, the American goalie who set the record for most stops in a World Cup game. Since 2010, they've needed an average of more than 1,200 days to approve new products.That's almost three years."

"These delays are killing American competitiveness, argues Wagoner. "  "And it's not just Brazil. Two of our other major competitors in food production, Argentina and Canada, are also much quicker to approve biotech traits."

Delays in the U.S. Regulatory System has meant that American farmers are not getting access to the latest biotech crop technologies.  Farmers abroad have access to such cutting edge crop traits like drought resistance and nutrition enhancement, long before American farmers.  Lastly, there are incidents in which farmers abroad have access to American-developed GE seeds before farmers in the states.
"Regulatory systems must be science-based and timely. They also must be predictable. Right now, the only thing we can predict about GM crop approvals is that they’ll take far too long. On our farm, we can’t plan what to grow or when to rotate our crops.

What’s more, investors are becoming reluctant to devote research-and-development dollars to agriculture. The world desperately needs new ways to produce more food, but biotech-approval delays smother the innovations that might help us meet this essential goal of the 21st century."

The Department of Agriculture has said it should be able to go through an application in 450 days or less. That’s a long time—longer than what Brazil needs right now—but also a tremendous improvement over current practices.

When it comes to biotech regulations is it too much to hope that we might keep pace with a country like Brazil?

To read more about Mark Wagoner, visit the Truth About Trade & Technology site here.