White House blueprint, EO embraces biotechnology

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2012 -Over the last three years, Republicans have pointed to what some view as the Obama Administration's attack on conventional agriculture and what they describe as an onslaught of new regulations that stifle ingenuity and the American entrepreneurial spirit.


But it appears that the man who campaigned on a strong science-based platform in 2008 wants the public to know that those criticisms aren't true. Despite all of the promotion of organic food production, and concerns about co-existence, the Obama administration whole-heartedly embraces genetic engineering and other promises associated with biotechnology - at least that appears to be the case from the National Bioeconomy Blueprint, released by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) last week, and an executive order promoting international regulatory cooperation, released Tuesday.


The “blueprint” outlines steps that federal agencies will take to drive the bioeconomy ‑ economic activity powered by research and innovation in the biosciences ‑ and details ongoing efforts across the Federal government to realize this goal. The document outlines five “strategic imperatives” with the potential to generate new markets and economic growth:

 Together we can feed the Bees


1.      Support R&D investments that will provide the foundation for the future bioeconomy.

2.      Facilitate the transition of bioinventions from research lab to market, including an increased focus on translational and regulatory sciences.

3.      Develop and reform regulations to reduce barriers, increase the speed and predictability of regulatory processes, and reduce costs while protecting human and environmental health.

4.      Update training programs and align academic institution incentives with student training for national workforce needs.

5.      Identify and support opportunities for the development of public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations-where competitors pool resources, knowledge, and expertise to learn from successes and failures.


Biotechnology has already had a huge positive impact, the document said.


“In 2010, revenues from genetically modified plants and microbes, a single economic indicator of the U.S.bioeconomy, were estimated in one assessment to account for approximately $300 billion in U.S.revenues, equivalent to more than 2% of gross domestic product.


The blueprint also cites a recent report from the National Research Council, which estimates that through the use of biotechnology-enabled control of corn rootworm, 10 million acres of farmland produced $231 million in additional annual revenue from crop yield gains, reduced insecticide use by 5.5 million pounds annually, and eliminated 5.5 million gallons of water annually from the farming process. Most recently, the NRC report says, in December 2011, drought tolerant corn was approved by the USDA, and strategies to improve other crops for drought-tolerance are underway. For more on the blueprint, click HERE.


The White House also released an executive order Tuesday directing the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the Office of Management and Budget to convene a working group with USTR and federal agencies to discuss international regulatory cooperation issues to “address unnecessary differences in regulatory requirements between the United States and its major trading partners.”  For more on the order, click HERE.


The executive order appears to be consistent with direction outlined in the “Bioeconomy Blueprint,” noted Cathy Enright, Executive Vice President, Food and Agriculture with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which applauded the Blueprint.


BIO's Director of International Affairs, Matt O'Mara added that it's “vital for the U.S. government to lead on international regulatory cooperation, particularly in the area of agricultural biotechnology and emerging technology.”



Original story printed in May 2nd, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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