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Mr. Chairman, Biotechnology is needed to feed growing population

PD Staff Published on 20 July 2011

On June 23, Rep. Timothy V. Johnson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture held a public hearing to review and discuss the opportunities and benefits of agricultural biotechnology for farmers, the environment, food and energy security, and competition in the global marketplace. Here are excerpts of testimony presented during the hearing:

“Global population growth creates a pressing humanitarian challenge. We can either meet this demand by utilizing marginal lands and lands with fragile soils and poor water resources, or we can make the smart choice of increasing the production capacity of the plants and animals themselves. Innovation in agricultural science and technology is the key.”
Chairman Timothy V. Johnson
(R-Illinois)

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“Biotechnology providers and seed companies, in partnership with grower groups and their farmer cooperatives, were at the forefront of creating valuable agriculture biotechnology products that benefit farmers, consumers and the environment.

For instance, biotechnology products have helped increase corn yields by 40 percent per acre in the last 20 years. Land use efficiency has increased by 37 percent over the last 20 years, effectively decreasing fixed cost burdens on producers. It now takes 37 percent less energy and 25 percent less water to produce a bushel of corn than it did two decades ago.

“The need to support this technology is not in question. The question is how to enable biotechnology to move forward to meet future needs. Legal decisions not based in science put the U.S. at risk of not being able to capitalize on the opportunities and benefits provided by biotechnology.

They also represent an unnecessary drain on the resources of the federal government, commodity organizations and biotechnology companies.”
The Honorable Charles F. Conner
President and chief executive officer, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Washington, D.C.

“Agriculture biotechnology is and will continue to be vitally important as American farmers work to feed a growing population around the globe. While large commodity crops like corn and soybeans have already realized the benefits of this science, the next generation of agriculture biotechnology holds immense promise for specialty crops, like the fruits and vegetables we grow in California’s Central Valley.”
Ranking Member Jim Costa
(D-California)

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“Science-driven agriculture can be the means through which the United States remains competitive with the rest of the world. U.S. agriculture will increasingly be challenged by scientific advances being made by talented scientists and innovators in other countries, including in Brazil and China, whose work is projected to contribute half of the new biotech plant varieties brought to market between now and 2015.

“This is an exciting period of time in discovery and innovation. Unfortunately, it is not an exciting time for delivering new products of agriculture biotechnology to consumers or to those who would invest in the future of agriculture.

While not all discoveries lead to innovation and new products, there are a growing number of examples of new inventions developed through genetic engineering that have good likelihood of success and that continue to be delayed in reaching the marketplace because of regulatory processes that are ill-defined and/or unpredictable, sometimes irrational and always costly.

This is an area for significant concern to inventors and entrepreneurs, and is worthy of attention and reform.”
Roger N. Beachy, Ph.D.
President emeritus, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, Missouri

“The United States has been a leading light in agricultural biotechnology as a platform technology and continues to serve as an important role model for countries around the world seeking to address global food challenges. A key source of this leadership has been its commitment to using a science-led regulatory system for determining the approval of new products. The rest of the world needs this demonstrated leadership now more than ever, given rising food prices and related political unrest around the world. Failure on the part of the United States to champion agricultural biotechnology will undermine confidence in the ability of the global community to confront the challenges of food security. Retracting from using science and technology to address emerging challenges will not result in any savings; it will only defer problems and future costs are likely to be higher.”
Calestous Juma, Ph.D.
Professor of the Practice of International Development, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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