NAWG and coalition partners submitted comments this week supporting full deregulation of biotech sugar beets and urging continued evolution of the regulatory process to address the court challenges that crop has faced.

In individual and group comments, NAWG told USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that full deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets, which have been determined to be safe by a number of government reviews, would be the appropriate regulatory decision.

Roundup Ready sugar beets were deregulated in 2005 by USDA, but in 2010, a U.S. District Court judge ruled the Department should conduct a more extensive review, known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Since the court challenge was based on process and not safety, the widely-adopted crop was partially deregulated in early 2011, in time to allow farmers to plant it this growing season.

In the Association’s individual statement, NAWG Chief Executive Officer Dana Peterson told regulators NAWG strongly believes growers should have the choice to plant new and safe agricultural technologies, and they should have access to a reliable regulatory process.

“Farmers, processors and consumers should be able to count on biotech crop approvals issued by the experts in federal agencies,” she wrote.

In the coalition comments, signatories stressed the financial and intangible costs of the “lengthy and unpredictable” regulatory and litigation processes faced by biotech sugar beets and other crops.

These themes echoed recent coalition comments to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) related to its effort to create a “national bioeconomy blueprint.”

The agency had requested input on grand challenges that could be addressed utilizing new technology, as well as regulatory issues surrounding their introduction into the marketplace.

The agriculture coalition in which NAWG joined focused its comments on plant biotechnology issues, describing the importance of biotech applications to meeting global food demand while using fewer resources and assisting crop adaptation to climatic changes around the world.

The groups urged policy makers to “maintain the integrity of the regulatory process with respect to biotechnology crops” and supported the continued development of the regulatory process known as the “coordinated framework,” which brings to bear resources in USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.

Wheat produced using biotechnology is not in commercial production anywhere in the world. However, wheat growers support the use of biotechnology as a tool to help farmers achieve better yields and improved crop quality while reducing inputs.

Additional comments were submitted to the Science and Technology office by the National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research (NC-FAR), of which NAWG is a member. Those comments said the food and agricultural sciences are building blocks of the bio-based economy and urged a high priority on federal funding for food and agricultural research, which has stagnated for at least two decades.

The full comments submitted this week and more about NAWG’s work toward wheat biotechnology is at www.wheatworld.org/biotech.