House subcommittee hearing showcases benefits of ag biotech

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The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture held a hearing last week to explore the societal benefits of biotechnology.

The hearing, which featured four speakers, explored how consumers, farmers and the environment have benefitted from traditional and modern applications of biotechnology. Some of the benefits of biotechnology explored include fighting diseases, increasing available food sources and conserving natural resources.

The panel also responded to questions from Committee Members concerning the challenges of relaying factual information about these technologies to the general public.

"It is clear from the hearing today that biotechnology plays a critical role in meeting a number of consumer and societal needs," said Chairman Austin Scott (R-GA) in a statement following the hearing.

"In a world where it is important to help feed our expanding population while ensuring that everyone has access to safe, diverse, and quality food, the U.S. can, and should, be a leader in biotech development to address the coming challenges for future generations. Whether it is treating vitamin deficiency, autoimmune disorders or addressing hunger, biotechnology has and will continue to play a large role in global agriculture."

"It was important to hold this hearing on the benefits of biotechnology because the stakes are high and biotech has a great story to tell," said Acting Chairman Rodney Davis (R-IL), who filled in for Scott at the hearing.

"Our farmers have the vital job of feeding a growing world and biotechnology is part of the solution. I'm excited for the future and believe the United States must continue to safely innovate through biotechnology to achieve higher crop yields, fewer hungry people and an improved environment."

Panelists included Cornell University Dr. David Just, who serves as co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management; John F Kennedy School of Government Professor of Practice of International Development Professor Dr. Calestous Juma, who serves as director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Tuskegee University Assistant Professor Dr. Olga Bolden-Tiller and The Farm at Wheeler Mountain owner and dairy farmer Joanna Lidback.

To view the archived webcast click here.

"The U.S. produces the safest and healthiest food and fiber in the world, and biotechnology plays a critical role as we work to meet the needs of a growing population," said Ranking Member Kurt Schrader (D-OR) in a post-hearing statement.

"As science and technology advances, it's important that we don't pit different agriculture production systems against one another - we should support all forms of agriculture. From the creation of seeds that can better withstand drought to the development of fortified rice to assist those suffering from a deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals, biotech is playing a crucial role in our society by feeding the world, protecting our environment and improving global health.

Today's hearing made it very clear that we still have a lot of work to do to communicate with the public about the benefits of biotech, and I believe this committee can play a vital role in doing just that."

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