WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today at a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee hearing entitled “Agriculture Biotechnology: A Look at Federal Regulation and Stakeholder Perspectives”, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) cited a recent report released by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) that pointed out the national security threats posed by global food insecurity. Senator Ernst emphasized that failure to embrace biotechnology could ultimately put our military and our country at risk.

The Iowa Senator questioned the panel which included: Mr. Mike Gregoire, Associate Administrator of the Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); Mr. William Jordan, Deputy Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and Dr. Susan Mayne, Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During her questioning, Senator Ernst detailed, “If we fail to embrace biotechnology as a safe, affordable and timely way to bring food production methods to developing and unstable nations, we are ultimately putting our military and our country at greater risk. How can this Administration and your agencies specifically work to help the public better understand biotechnology, so we can better address the national security challenges laid out by DNI?”

The hearing comes on the heels of the World Food Prize in Des Moines, an award presentation in honor of Iowan Dr. Norman Borlaug. He is a 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and a trailblazer in the development of global food sustainability. Recently, Senator Ernst penned a column for Waverly Newspapers, highlighting Dr. Borlaug’s vast contributions and the need for GMOs to help feed a growing and hungry world. She wrote in part:

Dr. Borlaug dedicated his life to the tireless pursuit of an important goal to feed a growing and hungry world. He made breakthroughs in plant breeding, especially in developing disease resistant varieties of wheat, which were well suited to broad swaths of the globe, and produced dramatically higher yields than their predecessors.
The spread of these ever improving seeds, as well as the knowledge of improved cultivation practices, across Mexico and later in Asia and Latin America became known as the Green Revolution, which has subsequently reduced hunger, famine, and poverty around the world. For this, Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and has been credited with saving over one billion lives.
While we celebrate his vast contributions, we are faced with the harsh reality that his fight is not yet won.
Much of the world remains impoverished, and malnutrition in children is the primary force holding back emergent nations. Additionally, the global population is projected to swell to nine billion by the year 2050.

However, the good news is we are currently enjoying a second Green Revolution due in large part to the remarkable advances being made in biotechnology. Our Iowa farmers and the agricultural industry nationwide have been growing safe, nutritious, and affordable Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for decades; and much like the first Green Revolution, many have taken for granted the remarkable benefits that have accompanied this transition. Every year we are producing more food on fewer acres, while using less pesticides to produce healthy and bountiful crops in all climates and conditions.

Click here to read the full column.

Click here or on the image below to watch Senator Ernst question the panel.

TRANSCRIPT:

SEN. ERNST: Thank you very much Mr. Chair, I appreciate that. Well, thank you folks for joining us here today in this committee hearing, I just came from the Armed Services Committee, and of course we focused very much on national security. And Senator, I believe you mentioned national security and food security in your opening statement, so thank you for doing that. The Director of National Intelligence, DNI, released a report last week pointing out the national security threats posed by global food insecurity. If we fail to embrace biotechnology as a safe, affordable and timely way to bring food production methods to developing and unstable nations, we are ultimately putting our military and our country at greater risk. How can this Administration and your agencies specifically work to help the public better understand the science supporting biotechnology, so we can better address the national security challenges laid out by DNI? And I would open that up to our entire first panel.

MR. GREGOIRE: Well I mentioned some things that we are already doing in terms of being transparent in terms of our decision making and the coordinated framework review that we have undertaken is at least in part designed to get at this issue. Beyond that I just think we just really need to redouble our efforts to communicate better about our processes and the science behind them.

SEN. ERNST: Thank you.

MR. JORDAN: Government needs to speak clearly, to answer questions responsibly, to lay out fully all of the information that we have, and I hope and expect that anyone who gives that fair consideration will conclude as we have that our decisions are protecting public health and the environment, and the food is safe.

SEN. ERNST: Ok, thank you Mr. Jordan. Dr. Mayne?

DR. MAYNE: I’d say just continue to educate as best we can using plain language techniques as best we can to communicate what the science really indicates and with regards to the processes and how we review these commodities for safety.

SEN. ERNST: Well I appreciate that. I do think that many of use this phrase in our home communities, since many of us are from agricultural areas, but, we do “feed and fuel the world,” and I do believe that that is very important to maintain stability around the globe in making sure that populations are fed. So, I appreciate your answers today, but it’s something we need to continue working on. I believe that GMOs are safe, I believe we should have them available to the globe. So, thank you very much, we appreciate it.

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