Potato Grower

January 2020

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New traits developed with biotech require timely, scientific-based regulatory evaluations. Essential to the Future Diggin' In Diggin' In BIOTECHNOLOGY | By Suzanne Bopp Illustration by Sean Kelly Biotechnology has proven to be an important tool for growers. The new and improved traits it has brought forward have helped increase productivity while protecting the environment. "For example, consider the biotech products, like Bt corn, that protect yield," says Scott Huber, Syngenta regulatory head of seeds and traits. "The uptake is greater than 85 percent in many crops— meaning farmers see them as hugely beneficial to maintaining a profitable business—and protecting yield means better utilization of resources. That's good for the environment, and it's good for a steady food supply." The positive environmental impact of biotech is "a story that hasn't been told well enough," says Fan-Li Chou, biotechnology coordinator at the USDA's Office of Pest Management Policy. "Studies show farmers who incorporate insect-resistant trait crops into their operations decrease the amount of insecticide they're using. I remember at a USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum, a farmer from Maryland said it's been really important for him to be able to grow genetically engineered crops to meet the Chesapeake Bay protection goals the EPA had put in place to decrease the impact on the Chesapeake Bay." The American Soybean Association (ASA) represents farmers across the U.S. who rely on biotech traits to grow their crops, says Renee Munasifi, ASA regulatory affairs manager. "Things change all the time, and our farmers need those tools to be able to address pests, disease, herbicide resistance— all the things coming at them daily," says Munasifi. "Our farmers need new technologies like biotech to continue to meet global demand and grow soybeans more sustainably." Growers also rely on the USDA to evaluate new biotech crops before they come to market, Munasifi says. "But it's important for regulation to be founded in science and based on real- world risks—and to be done in a timely manner." The process should also be as predictable as possible, and that's a goal at the USDA, Chou says. "We've implemented a lot of business process improvements in the last 25 years to improve our timeliness. It's really important because our farmers need access to these tools. 66 POTATO GROWER | JANUARY 2020

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