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Biotechnology

American farmers embrace agricultural biotechnology – 94% of soybeans, 88% of corn, and
90% of cotton grown in the U.S. is a variety improved through modern biotechnology.
According to the U.S. State Department, it will be necessary to produce as much food in the
next 50 years as was produced during the previous 10,000 years combined. Science and
innovation in agriculture will be required to produce this amount of food, feed and fiber in an
environmentally sustainable way.


Historically, the United States has maintained its competitive advantage by being a leader in
applying scientific rigor to a predictable biotechnology regulatory process. However, according
to USDA, between 1992 and 1999, USDA, on average, took 178 days to “approve” a biotech
crop; currently, that process takes two to five years. Conversely, the average time to approve a
product in Brazil is 27 months. For USDA, in 2010, the average time was 38.4 months. These
delays have lengthened the time it takes for a new product to be available for commercialization
in the U.S. to 13 years at a cost of $136 million.


Despite an Autumn 2011 administrative pledge to streamline the regulatory process and remove
inefficiencies in the regulatory process, USDA has approved only one product in 2012 – a
product that was backlogged due to litigation. No other new traits have been deregulated this
year. There are six traits that were submitted to USDA in 2009 still awaiting a decision.

 

Need

  • Current production challenges, such as weed resistance, urgently require farmer access to new and innovative technologies.
    • Recent studies show that up to a third of all corn and soybean growers and two thirds of all growers in the south have problems with weed resistance.
    • Tools are being developed now in collaboration with farmers to address today’schallenges; needless delay only allows those problems to escalate and hurt farmers’ productivity, efficiency, and jeopardizes their stewardship efforts.
    • Without diversification of current weed control practices, growers will be forced to revert to dated practices that risk of losing the environmental benefits gained from conservation tillage and herbicide-tolerant crops, such as reduced soil erosion and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • With the escalation of genetically engineered product approvals throughout the globe, USDA’s delays in reviewing these products put U.S. producers at a disadvantage. Timely and predictable regulation of crops derived from modern biotechnology, bolsters APHIS’s international reputation and signals to trading partners a commitment to sound regulatory policy. This will help discourage a “precautionary approach” in other countries, encourage greater market access and promote trade.
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