Measure Aims to Put Timetable on Biotech Approvals

Move seen as a way to keep technology available to help feed the world.

Published on: May 31, 2011

Whether this bill has much chance of passage in the session remains to be seen, but Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., has introduced legislation to speed the approval process for biotech crops. Called the Expediting Agriculture Through Science Act, it aims to support family farmers and the American agriculture industry to help supply food needs around the world by providing a defined timetable for the approval process on ag biotech products.

In a press statement, Fincher notes: "As a farmer myself, I understand that a more efficient approval process will result in increased investment and jobs. Family farmers in the United States have the ability to remain the global leaders in the biotech field, so long as Congress acts quickly to ensure future innovation."

The EATS act would clearly define the amount of time to approve or deny a petition for biotech crops, regulated under the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The Act would give APHIS 180 Days to approve or deny a petition for non-regulated status with an additional 60 days if needed to ensure the safety of the environment and compliance is met before deeming the petition approved.

The U.S. has a well-thought-out-process for clearing biotech crops for field use, testing the crops in a range of locations and trials before any process is approved. In the case of food items they must receive approval not only from USDA, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has tolerance and other tests that must be connected before the technology can be released - the EATS act could change that if it moves forward.

Adds Fincher: "In order for tomorrow's agriculture community to meet the need of an ever growing population, we must have a clearly defined timetable for agriculture's biotechnology approval process while ensuring the safety of our environment."