Chuck Conner, the president of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) today emphasized that federal approval of biotechnology crops should adhere to the existing, risk-based process that is founded on sound scientific principles. In particular, he called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve full deregulation without conditions of glyphosate-resistant alfalfa by the end of this month. The comments came as Conner testified at a House Agriculture Committee forum on biotechnology issues in agriculture.

“The development and adoption of biotechnology based crops, and the promise of new products, makes possible the continued availability of safe food, feed and fiber products to consumers in the U.S. and around the world,” Conner testified. “With 23 crops in the regulatory pipeline, and more on the way, it’s clear that USDA’s pending decision on herbicide-tolerant alfalfa will have a far-reaching impact.”

Conner emphasized that biotechnology crops not only give producers the ability to increase production but also help ensure good stewardship for natural resources through a reduced use of crop protectants and other products.

He also testified that the current U.S. framework for biotechnology crop approval, which has been in use since 1986, has worked well and engendered public confidence in a science-based process. Every product approved for use today has completed the process and been found to be safe.

In regards to Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA), Conner urged the Department to make a timely decision to approve sale and use of RRA without preconditions. In its environmental impact statement on RRA, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service had “co-preferred” full approval, which they term “Alternative 2,” with what is known as “Alternative 3,” approval of RRA with severe restrictions that would have limited the ability of many producers to grow the product. Under Alternative 3, roughly one-fifth of alfalfa growers in the country would be barred from using of Roundup Ready alfalfa.

“Alternative 3 will hurt the ability of growers to choose what they want to plant,” Conner testified. “Market need and workable solutions developed by industry and growers—not government mandates—are the key to ensuring that multiple production systems can exist side-by-side.
 
“In closing, I urge the Administration and this Committee to maintain the integrity of the regulatory process for the benefit of U.S. growers and our consumers. We must remember that we are all working toward the use of biotechnology in a manner that promotes continued opportunities for farmers around the world.”