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Food & Ag Groups Urge Support for Biotech Education Provision

April 19, 2016
As the House Committee on Appropriations marks up the FY2017 agriculture spending bill, the Committee is considering $3 million for consumer education and outreach to "promote understanding and acceptance of" biotechnology, a joint effort by the FDA and the USDA.

In a letter sent April 18 to Congressional leaders, BIO, along with 65 food and agricultural organizations urge support for the provision “to better inform the public about the application of biotechnology to food and agricultural production.”

Despite this support, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) tried to strip the funding claiming “it's not the responsibility of FDA to mount a government-controlled propaganda campaign.” The Lowey amendment, which was defeated 29 to 20, would divert the money instead to boosting the FDA's approval of pediatric drugs and devices.

Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) spoke out against Lowey’s amendment, saying all major scientific bodies, including all federal health agencies, have said that genetically engineered foods are safe.  Aderholt argued that the agencies should play a key role in education. "We need to avoid consumer confusion," he said.

American Soybean Association President Richard Wilkins, who farms in Greenwood, Del, called the education and outreach provision a “positive” and “a step in the right direction.”

“We’ve heard the leading minds in food safety and agricultural bioscience attest time and time again to the safety of biotechnology, but we’ve not done a good enough job at communicating the proven safety and the benefits of this technology to consumers,” Wilkins said. “This investment is a great initial commitment to that effort, and we applaud the House for including it.”

The text of the April 18 letter of support signed by 66 food and agricultural organizations is pasted below:

Dear Representatives,

The undersigned organizations appreciate and support the inclusion of $3 million within the Fiscal Year 2017 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to better inform the public about the application of biotechnology to food and agricultural production

Regrettably, there is a tremendous amount of misinformation about agricultural biotechnology in the public domain. Dedicated educational resources will ensure key federal agencies responsible for the safety of our nation’s food supply – the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – are able to more easily convey to the public science- and fact-based information about food.

Agricultural innovation is important to all Americans because it enables plant and animal producers to increase production of healthful food using less land, while conserving soil, water, and on-farm energy. These benefits are passed on to consumers who reap the advantage of affordable food prices, greater access to nutritious food, an improved environment, a strengthened rural economy, and enhanced domestic and international food security.

Embracing modern agriculture is the right thing to do for our country, which has a rich history of nurturing science, research, and innovation in all areas of the economy, including farming. As President Obama stated in December 2011, “The world is shifting to an innovation economy and nobody does innovation better than America.” This presidential quote is displayed prominently in the National Bioeconomy Blueprint, which embraces and promotes the use of biotechnology as a significant driver of American economic growth.

The United States is strong and prosperous because American leaders embrace the responsible use of technology and set forth public policies to move the nation forward in this regard. Science education plays an important role in this forward momentum. That is why we support the inclusion of $3 million for FDA and USDA to help the public better understand science- and fact-based information about agricultural biotechnology.

We urge you to retain this provision throughout the legislative process and oppose any legislative action to restrict agricultural technology development, to hinder farmers’ access to modern agricultural tools, or to malign advancements in plant and animal agricultural applications that are helping society meet current and future food production challenges.

Agricultural Retailers Association
American Agri-Women
American Beverage Association
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Feed Industry Association
American Phytopathological Society
American Seed Trade Association
American Society of Agronomy
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists
American Soybean Association
American Sugarbeet Growers Association
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)
Beet Sugar Development Foundation
Biotechnology Innovation Organization
Cooperative Extension Section of the APLU Board on Agriculture Assembly
Corn Refiners Association
Crop Science Society of America
CropLife America
Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association
Food Marketing Institute
Global Cold Chain Alliance
Global Harvest Initiative
Great Plains Canola Association
Grocery Manufacturers Association
Infant Nutrition Council of America
International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses
International Dairy Foods Association
Iowa State University
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA)
National Association of Wheat Growers
National Barley Growers Association
National Confectioners Association
National Corn Growers Association
National Cotton Council
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Grocers Association
National Milk Producers Federation
National Oilseed Processors Association
National Potato Council
National Renderers Assocation
National Seasoning Manufacturers Association
National Sorghum Producers
New York Agribusiness Association
New York Farm Bureau
New York State Vegetable Growers Association
North American Millers' Association
North Carolina State University
North Dakota State University
Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance (NY)
Pet Food Institute
Produce Marketing Association
SNAC International
Society of American Florists
Soil Science Society of America
South Dakota State University
Texas Tech University
U.S. Beet Sugar Association
U.S. Canola Association
U.S. Dry Bean Council
University of California, Davis
University of Delaware, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment
University of Missouri
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Virginia Tech