The House Agriculture Committee approved on Wednesday, April 18, amendments to the panel’s Farm Bill addressing some key BIO policy priorities:
- Trade: An amendment by Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) would create a Biotechnology and Agricultural Trade Program. This amendment is reflective of BIO-supported R. 5379, the Growing American Food Exports Act, introduced by Reps. Dunn (R-FL) and Panetta (D-CA) on March 22.The amendment reaffirms Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) has the authority to advocate to our trade partners on all new agricultural production techniques in addition to biotechnology.
“Trade is critical to the American agricultural economy, as 20 percent of U.S. grown goods are bound for foreign markets,” explains BIO. “It is essential that USDA is properly equipped to advocate for the fair treatment of the American farmer and U.S. grown goods around the world, which this legislation will ensure.”
- Biotech Education: Another provision offered by Rep. Dunn would set up a national science-based education campaign to increase public awareness of the kinds of technology used in food and agricultural production.This amendment establishes that USDA, in consultation with FDA, the Department of Education, and stakeholders, should establish a biotechnology education campaign aimed at providing consumers accurate, reliable information on the rigorous, science-based regulatory system that products of biotechnology undergo.
“Congress invests tens of millions of dollars annually in USDA, FDA, and EPA to carefully scrutinize products of biotechnology and ensure they are safe for both the environment and human and animal health. Yet many consumers do not even know these products are reviewed by federal scientists and regulators, as regulators have not historically shared their story or defended their work,” says BIO. “Congress and the Administration have a strong interest in the public knowing that these products are carefully regulated using robust, sound science.”
- Gene Edited Plants: An amendment offered by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) directs USDA, in consultation with FDA and EPA, to issue a report to Congress within 180 days of enactment with plans on how to improve the federal government’s policies and procedures with respect to gene edited plants.The report requirement directs the agencies to minimize the regulatory burdens, ensuring a positive environment for research and development, clarify that certain gene edited products do not warrant pre-market review, among other criteria.
- Gene Edited Animals: Yoho also offered an amendment (discussed and then withdrawn) that would have directed USDA, in consultation with FDA, to within 180 days of enactment to issue a report on existing authorities within USDA to regulate products of animal biotechnology.Rep. Yoho gave very concerned remarks accompanying his amendment about how innovation in animal biotechnology has been stifled, and he is eager to help alleviate the regulatory challenges facing the animal biotechnology industry.
- Biostimulant Definition: A BIO-supported amendment defining “biostimulants” was included in the base language. Such as a definition will help create a clearer regulatory path for these valuable products.
The House legislation cleared the Committee by a 26-20 party-line vote.
“As the bill heads to the floor, I hope the House recognizes the long-term certainty it provides for America’s farmers, just as it preserves nutrition programs for people who need help feeding themselves and their families,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “USDA stands ready to provide technical assistance as the bill progresses in the House, and we look forward to working with our friends in the Senate as well.”
“As Republicans and Democrats have farm interests in their own districts and states, we are hopeful that the 2018 Farm Bill can move forward in a bipartisan manner,” Perdue added.