The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) brought together experts in Washington on Wednesday, March 7, for a panel discussion on the future of food and farming and the role of technology in helping to ensure a sustainable food supply-a topic particularly timely for today’s celebration of National Ag Day.
Dr. Roger Beachy explained that solutions must include genetic research aimed at improving plant disease resistance and enabling crops to last longer. “I’d like to see the day when disease resistance is king, not disease,” he said.
He emphasized the need for effectively leveraging public and private resources for scientific research, and called for harmonizing food safety guidelines globally and regionally to reduce barriers for approving new technologies and food products.
Watch the full video of yesterday’s panel discussion here.
According to Reuters and Bloomberg, China signed agreements in Iowa to purchase biotech soybeans from American suppliers, strengthening the trade relationship between the two countries. The Wall Street Journal noted that Iowa is the nation’s biggest grower of biotech soybeans, while China is the world’s biggest importer and consumer.
The following day, Chinese and U.S. officials, including China’s Vice President Xi Jinping, attended the USDA’s first inaugural “U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium” in Des Moines. The USDA announced that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu had signed a historic Plan of Strategic Cooperation, designed to guide the two countries’ agricultural relationship over the next 5 years.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained, “This plan builds on the already strong relationship our nations enjoy around agricultural science, trade, and education. It looks to deepen our cooperation through technical exchange and to strengthen coordination in priority areas like animal and plant health and disease, food security, sustainable agriculture, genetic resources, agricultural markets and trade, and biotechnology and other emerging technologies.”
In a GreenBiz article, business and sustainability writer Marc Gunther writes that he supports agricultural biotechnology solutions to help feed the planet. He speaks with Steve Savage, an agricultural scientist with a PhD in plant science from the University of California at Davis, who draws from USDA data to point out that organic agriculture alone doesn’t produce enough food to ensure global food security since only a small percentage of total cropland is organic.
“I never have any problem with anybody farming, including organic farming,” Mr. Savage says, “just as long as people aren’t under the illusion that they’re saving the planet that way.” He adds, “A less than 1 percent solution after 30 years isn’t a big solution, and we do need a big solution.” Read more.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack
According to Western Farm Press, the USDA released data showing record agricultural exports and strong farmer income this year. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “Strong exports have enabled agriculture to remain one of only a few sectors of the U.S. economy to enjoy a trade surplus. This year’s surplus is projected at $42.5 billion-a record-and next year should be $32 billion, the third-highest.” Read more.
US farmers worldwide recognize benefits of ag biotech
The American Council on Science and Health said US farmers around the world have adopted biotech and it has revolutionized farming. The article also points out scientific research supporting the safety and nutrition benefits of biotech crops. Read more.
Iowa family farmer calls for reduced regulatory barriers to biotech crops
Tim Burrack, a corn and soybean family farmer in Iowa and board member of Truth about Trade & Technology, supports Dr. Nina Fedoroff’s op-ed in the New York Times about removing costly regulatory burdens for the approval of biotech crops. In an AgWeb blog he says, “All farmers should thank Fedoroff for her advocacy-and demand that we take back our regulatory system before it deprives us of the tools we use to produce the food that the world needs.” Read more.
The scientific, economic and social benefits of biotechnology are clear, yet government regulations continue to stifle new biotech innovations that will help our economy grow. Dr. Nina Fedoroff, former science and technology advisor for the U.S. State Department and professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, emphasized this in a New York Times op-ed article about the safety and efficacy of biotech crops.
She points out GM crops lower costs for farmers by producing higher yields on less land, while also benefiting the environment with reduced pesticide use and tilling. These advances are particularly important to help feed a quickly growing world population, but because of complicated regulatory hurdles there are only a handful of varieties of approved biotech crops. Dr. Fedoroff sums it up and writes, “It is time to relieve the regulatory burden slowing down the development of genetically modified crops. ” Read more.