Ranking Member Stabenow Opening Statement at Hearing on Agriculture Biotechnology

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, released the following opening statement – as prepared for delivery – at today’s hearing on agriculture biotechnology.

Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

I would also like to thank the Administration officials and food industry leaders for testifying today. You bring important perspectives to this conversation and I look forward to hearing your testimonies.

Throughout the history of our country, American agriculture has been at the forefront developing cutting-edge technology.

From John Deere’s invention of the steel plow – to Norman Borlaug’s use of novel plant breeding techniques to create high-yielding wheat that helped prevent hunger and famine around the world.

Today, that same spirit of innovation is helping drive agricultural production and efficiency to amazing new heights.

And, a growing global population, coupled with the effects of climate change, and the stress placed on much of our natural resources – has created an urgency for new innovations if we are to maintain our nation's agricultural leadership.

That’s one reason why I support the use of biotechnology in agriculture.

Biotechnology is proven to be safe, beneficial, and I believe, will play a major role in helping to solve these dual global challenges of climate change and global food security.

I also recognize the desire by a growing number of American consumers to know more about the food they eat.

This growing demand for information is one reason why the 2014 Farm Bill had unprecedented investments in areas like organics and local foods which help ensure consumers have increased choices.

As we know, several states have passed laws to disclose more about the production of food – and I believe this issue will only continue to build steam in the months and years ahead.

I share the concern about the difficulty in doing business across our country if 50 different states have 50 different standards and requirements.  Frankly, it just won't work.

However, we also need to recognize and respect the interests of many American consumers who care deeply about where and how their food is produced.  

In order to address legitimate concerns from our farmers, our food companies and consumers, I believe we need to work together to develop a bipartisan bill that can pass the Senate by the end of this year that meets the following tests: 

First, a solution that addresses the problem of a 50-state patchwork of regulations. 

Second, a national system of disclosure and transparency for consumers who wish to know more information about their food.

Third, an approach that does not stigmatize biotechnology. 

Nearly thirty years ago, the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy established the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology. 

Since its inception, this Framework has helped establish what sound oversight of agricultural biotechnology must be.

With the continued development and increased use of biotechnology – and other science-based breeding techniques – it makes sense that these standards are revisited and I applaud the Administration for taking that step earlier this summer. 

Ensuring that the Coordinated Framework is updated to reflect the latest research and science on biotechnology will help instill additional confidence about the safety and soundness of the use of these technologies.

As we look at updating the rules to reflect advancements in biotechnology, it makes sense that we examine the way in which consumers have access to the information they need to make informed decisions about the food they eat and purchase for their families. 

As members of this Committee, we recognize that American farmers and ranchers are the best in the world. And they use the most sophisticated farming practices to produce the most abundant and safest food supply in the world. 

We should strive to build confidence in these technologies, so that all consumers can better understand their benefits and recognize and appreciate the role of innovation in American agriculture today.

That’s why today’s hearing is so important. 

Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you and members of this Committee in these efforts.

Thank you.