This morning the House Agriculture Committee held a public forum to review the biotechnology product regulatory approval process. Discussion focused on the USDA’s pending decision on biotech alfalfa which considers three options: no deregulation, total deregulation, or partial deregulation with isolation standards to prevent contamination of non-GM crops.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack affirmed that the USDA will make a decision driven by science. He expressed his support for the role that biotechnology plays in increasing productivity and helping to feed a growing world population. “We believe that biotechnology stands to play a significant role in our effort to support our drive toward energy independence, conserve our natural resources, and meet the world’s growing demand for food, feed, fiber, and fuel,” he said. The USDA has approved 75 biotech products. He estimates that deregulation with isolation conditions could mean that close to 20% of land would be off limits for growing GE alfalfa.
Charles Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, pointed out that biotech crops are an important source of income for farmers and ensure that productivity keeps pace with demand. In 2008, before biotech alfalfa was withheld from the market, he said that farmers benefited from higher productivity and a $110 increase in profit per acre. Based on his assessment of the USDA’s pending decision, Mr. Conner said the USDA should have no authority other than to deregulate the product since scientific review under the Plant Protection Act has confirmed its safety.
GMO Research aims to prevent spread of banana disease
According to an article in The New Yorker magazine, GMO research aims to prevent the spread of a soil-borne disease, called Tropical Race Four, that threatens to wipe out a widely exported and commonly sold variety of banana called Cavendish. Robert Borsato, a fruit farmer in Australia who, like others, has witnessed the tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage in lost jobs and revenue caused by Tropical Race Four, said, “The only way to keep going is to breed a disease-resistant variety, one with commercial potential.” A team led by James Dale of Queensland University of Technology in Australia is working on genetically modified Cavendish. Read more.
Secretary Vilsack proposes co-existence for biotech alfalfa, Reuters reports
USDA Secretary Vilsack addresses farm groups
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack encouraged the largest U.S. farm group to find a way for traditional and genetically modified crops to co-exist, Reuters reports. “Every farmer ought to be able to do what he or she wants to do on their land, so we are going to continue to have that conversation,” Vilsack said at the annual meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). His proposed solution addressed the USDA’s deliberation between total deregulation and partial deregulation with isolation standards for biotech alfalfa. The article points out that Secretary Vilsack has acknowledged that the biotech alfalfa is safe. Read more.
Unproven claims against GM products similar to opposition to MMR vaccine, FT says
A Financial Times article compares previous opposition to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and current opposition to GM products to show that opponents’ arguments in both cases are unsubstantiated by peer-reviewed scientific research. Falsified information about the health hazards of MMR was later discredited only after causing considerable damage from a measles epidemic. The article points out that while the food debate raises different issues, independent research and food safety authorities in the EU have similarly reviewed opposing arguments to find, “Organic food does no harm. But then neither, it seems, does non-organic food.” Read More.
Benefits of Food Technology Similar to Other Technology, Dietician says
In an article published by Food Safety News, Kerry Phillips, Dietician from the International Food Information Council, compares the benefits of food technology to the benefits of mobile or electronic technology that consumers have readily embraced. She points out that while the benefits of food technology are well-documented in scientific literature, skepticism remains because the tangible benefits are less apparent. “As new food innovations and technologies continue to emerge and evolve, communicators have the opportunity to demonstrate that technology in food cannot only make our food safer and more nutritious, but more affordable, convenient, and better-tasting.” Read More.
North Carolina Growers Say Biotechnology Jobs Help Rural Economy
According to Southeast Farm Press, a meeting of growers in North Carolina illuminated the employment opportunities generated by agriculture biotechnology. Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, explained, “At a time when the country was mired in a recession and unemployment topped 10 percent in many Southeastern states, jobs in biotechnology in North Carolina increased by 6.3 percent. Jobs in the biotechnology world in North Carolina pay an average of about $30 per hour.” Tolson added, “The agriculture sector and biotechnology jobs in rural areas of the state can be a tremendous economic shot-in-the-arm to our rural economy.” Read More.