Lawmakers discussed the importance of biotechnology in the agricultural sector during a joint hearing of the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittees on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture and Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research. The “Agricultural Biotechnology: 21st Century Advancements and Applications” hearing featured several witnesses who explained the value that new technologies such as gene editing can provide for agriculture.
“Applications of gene editing to enhance the traits of animals is the present and future of innovation in livestock production. For the promises of this groundbreaking technology to be realized in feeding the future, processes for federal regulatory approval and monitoring must be rooted in science and aligned to the pace of development,” Associate Dean of Research in the School of Molecular Biosciences at Washington State University, Dr. Jon Oatley said in his testimony. “A modernization of the U.S. federal regulatory framework governing applications of genetic modification in animals, including gene editing, is needed for streamlined and cost-effective approval and monitoring.”
Lawmakers and witnesses went over some of the areas that could be improved upon to help streamline innovation. Issues of regulatory hurdles, increased need for public-private partnerships, and improved funding support were also highlighted during the hearing. A group of industry organizations including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Pork Producers Council, and American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) sent a letter in support of the hearing. The coalition noted that continued development in the area of biotechnology will be sorely needed to meet the agricultural needs of the future.
“In the 21st century, we are facing the convergence of critical challenges to the agricultural food system: climate change, rapidly growing global population, expansion of the global middle class, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss,” ASTA Vice President of Scientific Affairs and Policy Fan-Li Chou said in her testimony. “The need for improved plant varieties is more pressing than ever. Thankfully, plant breeders have an unprecedented number of tools to work with. The most exciting of late is gene editing.”