U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan, and U.S. Representative Frank Lucas, R-Okla., have sent a letter to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting the department return to a science based regulatory system for agriculture biotechnology and to deregulate without conditions genetically engineered alfalfa. The lawmakers believe USDA's Alfalfa proposal politicizes the regulatory process and could set a harmful precedent for open pollinated crops in the future.
The issue has generated a significant amount of controversy and emotion with implications for the future of agricultural biotechnology in the United States and around the world. The lawmakers wrote that each year, new products are brought to market under the oversight of a science based regulatory process that has no equal in the world. This "Coordinated Framework" between the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration combines each agency's professionalism and expertise.
The letter went on to say that the National Environmental Policy Act was specifically written to address the potential impacts of regulatory decisions on the environment. The Act is neither designed nor well suited to manage or determine the economic relationships in the agriculture sector.
The legislators also went on to point out that the option of granting non-regulated status to the product with geographic restrictions and isolation distances sets a troubling precedent for open pollinated crops in the future. With 86% of the corn crop and 93% of cotton planted to biotech varieties last year, the decisions made in the context of alfalfa will be felt across the country.