Daines Presses FDA Commissioner on Importance of Biotechnology to Food Supply

U.S. SENATE — Senator Steve Daines worked to ensure that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) upholds its duty to ensure that the U.S. has a safe food supply and abstains from marketing or labeling mandates that it determines have no bearing on food safety.   

During a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration FDA and Related Agencies hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 funding request for the Food and Drug Administration, Daines pressed FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf on allowing sound science and the free market to continue driving innovation and rejecting harmful regulations that are not backed by evidence.

“It is critical that Washington not get in the way and push policies that have the potential to hinder or discriminate against ag research and technology that is proven to be effective, safe, and productive,” Daines stated. “In particular, the prospects for biotechnology are bright. Whether it be enhancing production by increasing crop yields, helping preserve the environment by requiring fewer pesticides, reducing demand for water, or lower food costs for families, I view biotechnology as essential to the future of our food supply.”

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“In Montana, on the eastern side of our state sugar beets are a major crop, they are an economic driver for the state, and a source of hundreds of jobs,”Daines asked Califf. “Most sugar beets are grown utilizing biotechnology, but the sugar that results from the processing of a conventional sugar beet versus a biotech sugar beet is identical in both nutritional value and composition. If a biotech food product, like sugar beets in this example, is deemed by the FDA to be safe for human consumption, meet the same quality standards as a non-biotech food and is nutritionally and essentially the same as a non-biotech counterpart, should it be regulated by FDA any differently?” 

“The law tells us it shouldn’t be labeled specifically for that if the qualities were as you described,” Califf responded. “This is vitally dependent on a robust agricultural biomedical research enterprise.” 

Daines also pressed Califf on if he agrees with the November 2015 FDA decision to deny a petition to require mandatory labeling of biotech in food products.

“This is a decision that was really mandated by law in the opinion of the FDA because in order for the FDA to mandate a label it would be required that there be a material difference, for example as measured by a change in the nutritional composition of what you eat for a genetically engineered product versus a non-genetically engineered product,” Califf responded. We’ve been unable to detect such differences at this point which explains our decision.

Daines’ efforts were commended by Montana farmers, ranchers and scientists across the state: 

Dr. Hikmet Budak, Plant Sciences Endowed Chair, Montana State University: “We cannot afford to ignore technologies such as GMOs to help meet food supply demands in the planet. By increasing yield and reducing the impact of agriculture production on the environment, GMOs will play an essential role in ensuring we have the capacity to feed the world’s growing population.”

Rob Davis, President, Montana Grain Growers Association: “Agriculture biotechnology has enormous potential to ensure that Montana continues providing a safe,  abundant, and affordable food supply for our nation and the world. The Montana Grain Growers Association is strongly supportive of efforts to advance innovative technology and ensure that unnecessary and arbitrary regulations or mandates are not placed on our farmers. The MGGA thanks Senator Daines for his efforts and his work on behalf of Montana grain growers.” 

Bob Hanson, President, Montana Farm Bureau: “The Montana Farm Bureau Federation thanks Senator Daines for his leadership and his support of ag biotechnology. We appreciate his recognition of the benefits that biotechnology can provide to Montana agriculture and its farmers and ranchers, both now and in the future.”

Shane Strecker, Southern Montana Sugarbeet Growers: “Every sugarbeet produced in Montana utilizes biotechnology. To put it another way, without biotechnology, the hundreds of jobs Montana’s sugarbeet industry supports wouldn’t exist. The Southern Montana Sugarbeet Growers Association is thankful for Senator Daines in bringing attention to the importance of biotechnology for Montana and for fighting for Montana’s sugarbeet growers.”

David Garland, General Manager, Sidney Sugars Incorporated: “Sidney Sugars Incorporated would like to thank Senator Steve Daines for his support of Agriculture Biotechnology.  Quite simply, Biotechnology allows Montana Growers to raise more food to feed a growing world population and do so in a safe and environmentally friendly way.”  

Dan Lake, Montana Certified Seed Potato Grower: “Ensuring that Montana potato growers are able to utilize the latest in biotechnology without having their potatoes being stigmatized or discriminated against is of critical importance. We appreciate Senator Daines’ efforts to raise awareness surrounding the safety and benefits that biotechnology can provide for Montana potato growers and Montana ag more broadly.”