Ranking member, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, asked if “folks that oppose biotech picked on sugar beets (another GM crop long in regulatory review) and alfalfa because they’re small crops?”

Vilsack was unsure of motivations “but I’ll say this: EIS are very expensive and time-consuming. We’ve got to figure out a way (to deal with this): either beefing up the capacity of APHIS … to handle these petitions on a more timely basis or develop a better way of dealing with the industry so the industry can … assist in putting these EIS together and have us critically review them. There has got to be a way to reduce the time.”

Peterson: “Do you have the authority to implement option three?”

“The statute indicates we have three decisions that can be made with reference to any petition,” answered Vilsack. “One is to say ‘we’ll continue to regulate it.’ Another is ‘we won’t regulate it, at all.’ The third is ‘we’ll deregulate it, in part.’ I think we have those three authorities.”

Peterson: “You need no additional authority, or this committee doesn’t need to look at, any changes to the act to accommodate what you’re trying to do?”

Vilsack: “I wouldn’t say you don’t need to look at the act. (The Plant Variety Act) was enacted, I believe, in the early 1980s and (since) we’ve seen a tremendous expansion of biotechnology and conflicting interests being raised. That certainly merits a review.”