The U.S. Department of Agriculture turns 150 years old in May, having been created by Congress and President Lincoln in 1862. Leaders of the agricultural community are pointing to biotechnology as a continuation of the scientific approach to agriculture that USDA has promoted from the beginning.
In a recent column, American Farm Bureau Federation President and CEO Bob Stallman outlined the history and continuity of USDA’s mission:
“On May 15, 1862, President Lincoln signed into law a bill establishing a new Department of Agriculture, which was specifically directed to acquire information through ‘practical and scientific experiments’ and to collect and propagate ‘new and valuable seeds and plants’ and distribute these to the nation’s agriculturists,” Stallman wrote. READ MORE »
Bolivian farmers welcome government decision to allow GM crops
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Bolivian farmers suffering harsh weather conditions are calling on the government to remove export restrictions on corn, wheat, soybeans and other staple foods. The article points out that farmers welcomed President Evo Morales’s decision to sign a bill allowing the introduction of most genetically modified (GM) crops. Read more.
Forbes blog: Federal Government regulations are inhibiting technology innovations
A Forbes blog says the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should reduce burdensome regulations for ag biotech crops. Dr. Henry Miller, Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and former Founding Director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA, points out that bureaucratic hurdles have “inhibited research and development.” Read more.
GM Seeds Raise Incomes and Increase Yields in Africa
An article by Voice of America discusses studies showing that genetically modified crops help Africa to overcome poverty and hunger. It points out that in the book, The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, Harvard University Professor Calestous Juma “proposes that biotech seeds could dramatically increase yield and raise incomes.” Juma joins other genetic engineering proponents like Margaret Karembu, Director of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application’s AgriCenter (ISAAA) in Nairobi, who finds that biotech agriculture reduces harmful insecticides, increases yields and raises incomes in countries like South Africa and Burkina Faso.
Author Voices Benefits of Biotechnology on Fox News GM Food Debate
In a Fox News interview with John Stossel, Gregory Conko, co-author of The Frankenfood Myth, says that modern biotechnology “allows for much safer food.” Mr. Conko points out that “if you’ve eaten food in, say, over the last ten thousand years, you’ve eaten something that farmers or plant breeders have intentionally modified at the genetic level.” He explains that ag technology makes it possible to be more precise by identifying “the changes that are made in the genetic structure of an organism.”
Former USDA Chief Scientist Recommends GM Crops for President’s Plan
According to Scientific American, former U.S. Department of Agriculture Chief Scientist and Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics Gale A. Buchanan highly recommends that President Obama incorporate genetically modified crops into his plans to improve global energy productivity and food security. In the article, Buchanan states that “any ‘real, revolutionary’ impact” of the president’s so-called Evergreen Revolution depends on taking advantage of the benefits of GM crops. “The world has got to accept genetically modified plants because not to is to fail to acknowledge one of the most important discoveries of the 21st century,” Buchanan said.
The Economist Magazine is hosting an online debate discussing whether biotechnology can be used to advance sustainable agriculture. CBI Expert and author of Tomorrow’s Table Dr. Pamela Ronald of University of California - Davis has provided the opening statement on behalf of the motion that biotechnology can contribute to sustainable agriculture. Dr. Ronald writes, “Well-documented benefits of GE crops include massive reductions of insecticides in the environment, improved soil quality and reduced erosion, prevention of destruction of the Hawaiian papaya industry, proven health benefits to farmers and families growing GE crops as a result of reduced exposure to harsh chemicals…”
Vote in the Economist Magazine’s debate: are biotechnology and sustainable agriculture complementary?
You can weigh in with your view and vote in the debate. Voting ends November 10. Vote and read more here.
Several Leading Environmentalists voice support for agricultural biotechnology
In recent years well-known environmentalists such as Mark Lynas, Stewart Brand and Patrick Moore, one of the founding members of Greenpeace, have reversed their unfavorable positions towards genetically modified (GM) crops and have voiced support for GM Crops as a result of data that demonstrates the environmental benefits of agricultural biotechnology. According to a piece in the UK Telegraph, “Mr. Lynas, who along with other activists ripped up trial GM crops in the 1990s, said that GM food had now been consumed by millions of people in the US for more than 10 years without harm, and this had convinced him to change his views.” Read more.
USDA announces plans to re-approve genetically modified sugar beets
The USDA announced plans to move forward with approving genetically modified (GM) sugar beets for a second time this week. A recent federal court ruling has called for an additional environmental assessment of the crop before it can be planted again, despite it having been approved by the USDA five years ago. Genetically modified sugar beets currently account for 95 percent of the U.S. crop and according to an estimate by the USDA, if farmers cannot plant it next spring, U.S. sugar production will be cut by about 20 percent. Read more.