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Reflecting on July 2015: “The Ag Biotech Debate Was Front and Center”

August 6, 2015
Agri-Pulse recently published an op-ed titled “The Biotechnology Riddle” by Marshall Matz which outlined how ag biotech was “front and center” in both executive and congressional affairs this past July. He guides readers through the actions taken by legislative officials to promote the benefits of biotechnology and scientific literacy.

First on July 2nd the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of U.S. Trade Representative issued an Executive Memorandum to “Modernize the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products” to update the federal government's Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology. The modernization effort will apply to biotechnology products defined as “products developed through genetic engineering or the targeted or in vitro manipulation of genetic information of organisms, including plants, animals, and microbes.”

Next on July 23rd, the House of Representatives in a bi-partisan fashion passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 to preempt all state legislation that requires labeling of GMOs, and codify in federal law FDA's current voluntary program for labeling of GE foods.

Supporters of the legislation, however, say the issue is not about a consumer's right to know, but whether a state, or all of the states, should be allowed to enact their own labeling requirements, resulting in a patchwork of different labeling schemes around the country. They also argue that the label is the wrong place to communicate such information.

Last, towards the end of July as President Obama traveled to Africa, the White House posted a fact sheet about partnerships with African countries to elevate food security and inhibit climate change.

It embraces “climate-resilient seeds,” “drought tolerant seeds,” and “new high-yield seed technologies” to “help increase yields and improve incomes.” 

Over the past 30 days, our government embraced the life-saving and climate-changing abilities ag biotech has to offer. However, Matz suggests that the public still seems skeptical about biotech methods, thus wrapping his piece around to uncover the “biotechnology riddle.”

The bottom line is that when it comes to the public acceptance of agriculture biotechnology, there is still a major disconnect between the scientific community's support of biotechnology and the public's skepticism; therein lies the riddle. Biotechnology, and all agriculture technology, is needed to produce enough food to feed an exploding world population, but the public, or a vocal minority of the public, is nervous and seeking greater information.