Washington, D.C. (June 23, 2011)—Use of biotechnology crops by U.S. agriculture have allowed farmers to meet growing demand for food, feed and fiber both here at home and around the world, Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) told a House subcommittee today. Conner also emphasized that continued development and adoption of new biotech crops was the key to feeding and clothing a world population projected to exceed 9 billion by 2050 in an environmentally and economically sustainable way.
The comments came during a hearing held by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Affairs to focus on the utilization of new practices and technologies by agricultural producers in the U.S.
“Incredible strides have been made with the adoption of biotechnology. For example, in 2010, 93 percent of U.S. cotton was genetically engineered, and cotton yields have increased approximately 33 percent as compared to the average yields prior to the introduction of biotech cotton in 1996,” Conner testified. “It is imperative that the U.S. agriculture industry continue to lead the way with innovation, product development and acceptance of biotechnology crops.”
As an example of the potential for biotechnology, Conner pointed to its use in wheat. Some 20 percent of calories consumed by people across the globe come from wheat, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; drought and other disasters in recent years have led to uncertainty over wheat supplies. Innovation, he said, will be a key to improving wheat production, keeping up with growing demand, and adapting to volatile weather patterns across the globe.
“The need to support this technology is not in question. The question is how to enable biotechnology to move forward to meet future demands,” Conner said. “There are currently over 20 biotechnology traits pending regulatory decisions. It is imperative that USDA continue its science- and safety-based regulatory process, and be allowed to make decisions without undue legal interference.”
NCFC is a national association representing America’s farmer cooperatives. There are nearly 3,000 farmer cooperatives across the U.S. whose members include a majority of our nation’s more than 2 million farmers, ranchers and growers. These farmer cooperative businesses handle, process, and market agricultural commodities and related products; furnish farm supplies; and provide credit and associated financial services. Earnings from these activities are returned to their members on a patronage basis. Farmer cooperatives also provide jobs for nearly 250,000 Americans, many in rural areas, with a combined payroll of over $8 billion.
Additional information about NCFC can be found at http://www.ncfc.org.