Ag Committee Presses USDA to Base Biotech Product Decisions on Sound Science

Jan 20, 2011

Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184

WASHINGTON –  Today, the House Agriculture Committee held a public forum to review the biotechnology product regulatory approval process. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to make an announcement regarding genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa in the coming days. The public forum was held to explore this issue in advance of that decision.

Recently, USDA's final environmental impact statement (EIS) concluded that GE alfalfa does not pose a plant pest risk. Typically, if a product is found to not be a plant pest, USDA deregulates it thereby making it available for commercialization. However, USDA has proposed an option in relation to GE alfalfa that would partially deregulate the product and impose geographic restrictions and isolation distances. This option would be a departure from existing policy.

"I appreciate Secretary Vilsack and Mr. Conner taking the time to participate in our forum today. Agricultural biotechnology is important to the future of American agriculture; and it was important for USDA to hear from the Committee on this issue in advance of its decision on genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. It is my hope that USDA will use sound science to guide its decision-making process. As we seek to find solutions to the challenges of identity preservation, it is important that we not pursue strategies that inhibit grower choice or pit producer against producer," said Chairman Frank D. Lucas.

"Today’s discussion highlighted many issues surrounding biotech product decisions that affect all agriculture producers. The current process takes these decisions out of the hands of the agriculture community and moves them into the courtroom, litigated by lawyers and decided by judges who have no connection to agriculture. I look forward to working with Secretary Vilsack and Chairman Lucas to ensure that we continue product innovation and agricultural growth," said Ranking Member Collin Peterson.

Participant List:

Panel I

The Honorable Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington D.C.

Panel II

The Honorable Charles F. Conner, President and CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Washington D.C.

Accompanied by:

Bernice Slutsky, Ph.D., Vice President, Science and International Affairs, American Seed Trade Association, Alexandria, Virginia