BIO Joins 50+ Ag Groups in Abandoning Leonardo “Sustainability” Talks

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Thursday, October 21, 2010) - Representatives from national and regional agriculture, food and feed organizations withdrew en masse this week from the Leonardo Academy’s sustainable agriculture standard setting initiative citing “fatal, systemic limitations and chronic biases” within the Leonardo effort.

A letter addressed to Michael Arny, Leonardo Academy president, was signed by ten national agricultural-organization voting members on the nearly 60-member Committee, and endorsed by 46 other agricultural organizations nationwide, including the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

“A successful American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sustainable agriculture standard cannot be developed without the fair representation and participation of those representing the overwhelming majority of U.S. agriculture which constitutes 95 percent of production,” the letter says. “Unfortunately, mainstream agriculture has been given a decidedly minor voice in Leonardo Academy’s process.”

The Leonardo Academy and its principal financial sponsor, Scientific Certification Systems, had undertaken an effort in 2007 to develop a draft national standard for sustainable agriculture under a consensus-based process governed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

“To meet the growing global demand for food, feed, energy and fiber, technology helps farmers achieve a more sustainable approach,” says Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, executive vice president for food and agriculture at BIO.  “The success achieved in recent years is proof positive that science and modern agriculture technologies can provide more environmentally-friendly farming practices.”

In a September 11, 2008 letter to ANSI, the U.S. Department of Agriculture challenged Leonardo’s ANSI accreditation as a standards development organization for numerous fundamental flaws in Committee setup and management.

“At the early stages, mainstream production agriculture had difficulty getting a seat at the table,” said Bomer.  “Over the years, it has become clear that the Leonardo ‘standard’ would not represent the needs of the people that actually grow the vast majority of our country’s food, feed and fiber.”

BIO maintains its commitment to agricultural sustainability and says it will work with the greater agriculture community on the development and implementation of a valid approach to agricultural sustainability in another venue.

A copy of the October 18, 2010 letter to the Leonardo Academy is posted on the bio website at


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BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world. BIO produces BIOtech Now, an online portal and monthly newsletter chronicling “innovations transforming our world.” Subscribe to BIOtech Now.

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