10.21.15

Senate Agriculture Committee Holds First Biotechnology Hearing in 10 Years

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today held a hearing on agriculture biotechnology with federal regulators and perspectives from producers and consumers.

“This is the first time in 10 years this Committee has held a hearing on agriculture biotechnology, a topic that is of utmost importance for producers in meeting the global food challenge” said Chairman Roberts. “Science has come a long way in those 10 years, and we recognize those beneficial advances today.”

For witness info, testimonies, and to watch the hearing, click here

The following is Chairman Roberts’ opening statement as prepared for delivery: 

Good morning. I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to order. 

I’ve said many times that one of our Committee’s main goals is to conduct thorough oversight of the issues within our jurisdiction. We have a responsibility to ensure that the government agencies carry out laws passed by Congress in an efficient and effective manner.

Today’s hearing is an important step in the Committee’s work as we hear from the three agencies tasked with regulating agriculture biotechnology—USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration. 

We will also hear from witnesses that represent different perspectives in the value chain of agriculture and food production—a farmer, a food manufacturer, as well as representatives of other consumer opinions, and a medical professional. 

We have all heard about our growing global population—currently at 7 billion and estimated to reach over 9.6 billion in the next several decades.  

We’ve seen too many examples in recent years where shortfalls in grain and other food items or increases in prices at the consumer level have helped to trigger outbreaks of civil unrest and protests in places like the Middle East and Africa. 

In light of these global security threats, today’s farmers are being asked to produce more safe and affordable food to meet the demands at home and around the globe. 

At the same time, they are facing increased challenges to production, including: limited land and water resources, uncertain weather, and pest and disease issues. 

Over the past twenty years, agriculture biotechnology has become a valuable tool in ensuring the success of the American farmer in meeting the challenge of increasing yield in a more efficient, safe, and responsible manner.  

As we review these issues, we must continue to be guided by the best available science, research, and innovation. 

Today, I look forward to our government witnesses highlighting the steps their agencies have taken to ensure that agriculture biotechnology is safe— safe to other plants, safe to the environment, and safe to the food supply. We do have a regulatory system that makes biotechnology crops among the most tested in the history of agriculture. 

The multi-agency approach—referred to as the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology—was established with a science and risk-based approach in the 1990s. And, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has recently initiated a process to review the regulatory system. 

Their objective is a long-term strategy to ensure that the Federal regulatory system can assess any risks associated with products of biotechnology “while supporting innovation, protecting health and the environment, maintaining public confidence in the regulatory process, increasing transparency and predictability and reducing unnecessary costs and burdens.” 

Today, we will also hear from representatives of the value chain of agriculture and food production. This includes witnesses with firsthand experience farming and in food production. And, it includes perspectives of those that deal with hunger and health issues on a daily basis. 

Increasingly, many Americans have taken an interest in where their food comes from and how it is made.  

Throughout this discussion, I hope we remember the importance of focusing on science and consider our role to help ensure a safe and affordable food supply for consumers at home and around the globe.  

I thank each witness for providing testimony before the Committee on such an important issue. And, I ask consent to include other statements and information submitted to the Committee along with the hearing record. 

With that, I recognize Senator Stabenow for any remarks.

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