What is in this article?:
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has gone before the House Committee on Agriculture and outlined USDA’s efforts to address the complex issues surrounding biotechnology and the agency’s role in regulating it.
Has faith in system
"The growth and promise of biotechnology — the fact that it can provide a critical assist in meeting domestic and global challenges, including food security and climate change — is due in large part to the innovative culture of American agriculture. I need to state clearly and emphatically — I have no doubt about the safety of the products our regulatory system at USDA has approved over the last two plus decades and that it will continue to approve in the months and years ahead.
"The rapid adoption of GE crops has coincided with the rapid expansion of demand for organic and other non-GE products, resulting in real, practical difficulties for some non-GE producers to meet the need of their markets. These conflicts have produced ongoing litigation and resulted in uncertainty for producers and technology innovators. We are at a crucial juncture in American agriculture where the issues causing the litigation and uncertainty must be addressed, so that the potential contributions of all sectors of agriculture can be fully realized.
"As part of USDA’s efforts to expand U.S. agriculture, we must ensure that our regulatory oversight is timely, consistent, effective, and grounded in sound science. We must ensure that we keep pace with the latest scientific developments, and that we do so transparently. The Plant Protection Act gives the Secretary of Agriculture, and through delegated authority the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the ability to prohibit or restrict the importation, exportation, and the interstate movement of plants, plant products, certain biological control organisms, noxious weeds, and plant pests. It is under these authorities that APHIS regulates the importation, interstate movement, and safe field testing of GE organisms. In regulating biotechnology products, APHIS works closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as part of the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology. The three agencies work together to ensure the development, testing, and use of biotechnology products occurs in a manner that is safe for plant and animal health, human health, and the environment.
"USDA’s biotechnology program has been in place since 1986, and APHIS has developed a framework for regulating biotechnology that is rigorous and based on sound science. Since the program began, APHIS has overseen the safe adoption of numerous biotechnology products, with 26,000 field trials grown under our notification procedures and 3,000 field tests conducted under our permitting process, which encompasses field trials at 86,000 different locations. In addition, we have deregulated over 75 products.
"It is not a static program. To farmers, ranchers, and growers, it is one that has grown and evolved as technology — often driven by the needs and demands of producers — has changed. As we move forward, we must be cognizant of the needs of all producers and all types of production.