Senate Ag Committee Leadership Urges Vilsack to Protect Biotech Regulatory System

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Wednesday, June 30, 2010) - A letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack from Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) expresses concern that recent court cases dealing with biotech crops are hampering the U.S. regulatory system for agricultural biotechnology and that Congress, reaffirmed by the recent Supreme Court decision, has not granted statutory authority for the federal government to regulate agriculture biotechnology based first on economic harm.

The Senators referenced the June 21, 2010 Supreme Court decision which reversed a lower court’s nationwide ban on the cultivation of biotech alfalfa.  This court decision remands the case back to the District Court and then back to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine what interim measures can be implemented while the agency completes its environmental impact statement process. 

“Despite countless findings and studies confirming the safety of genetically engineered crops, recent wrongly-decided court decisions threaten to thrust the U.S. regulatory system for agricultural biotechnology into a non-functioning regulatory system,” says the letter signed by Lincoln, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Chambliss who is the Committee’s Ranking Member.  

BIO applauds Senators Lincoln and Chambliss for recognizing that timely regulatory decisions are crucial to maintaining a stable business climate for farmers.  Also, U.S. farmers need access to new technologies to remain competitive in the global marketplace.  Agricultural biotechnology can help us more sustainably meet the growing demand for food and fuel, but it depends on a science-based regulatory system in order to realize the promises that this technology holds.

Both Senators acknowledge “the higher yields, greater production and increased profits for U.S. farmers” brought about by the innovation and adoption of agricultural biotechnology.  They also laud the Coordinated Framework between the USDA, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which allows new products to be brought to market “overseen by a stringent regulatory process that ensures the health and safety of our food supply, environment and natural resources.”

“Farmers in the United States depend on a science-based regulatory process.  Such a system has been the cornerstone of the Coordinated Framework and the counterpoint to those who seek to ban the development and planting of new and innovative products, many of which bring significant environmental benefits.  We sincerely encourage USDA, along with the Department of Justice, to continue to mount vigorous defenses against lawsuits that seek to upend science-based regulatory decisions.”

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BIO represents more than 1,200 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.