It came as a shock to the soccer world and to the entire country of Brazil when their team lost, rather spectacularly, in the World Cup. Not only was Brazil expected to be in the final, but, being the host country for the games, many expected them to win as a matter of national pride. While Brazil may have lost the soccer game, there is another competition they are winning rather handily and one the US is losing rather spectacularly.
Brazil, once considered an economic disaster, is on its way to becoming one of the leading agricultural producers in the world. While Brazil was late to the biotechnology game, they are making up for lost time by rapidly approving new biotech products as a much faster pace than the US. Mark Wagoner, a third generation farmer in Walla Walla County, Washington, pointed out in a recent post on Truth About Trade and Technology, that, while Brazil is quickly approving new biotech crops, the US is moving in the opposite direction. He stated, “Just seven years ago, Brazil and the United States needed about the same amount of time to review new products in agricultural biotechnology, about 600 days. Brazil, however, has worked hard to improve its methods. Since 2010, it has needed an average of just 372 days between first application and final approval. That’s a year and a week. Meanwhile, U.S. regulators have raced in the opposite direction. They’ve behaved like Tim Howard, the American goalie who set the record for most stops in a World Cup game. Since 2010, they’ve needed an average of more than 1,200 days to approve new products.”
Much of this delay is due to pressure from anti-biotech groups in the US and a heavy regulatory hand being used in Washington on agriculture and many other aspects of our economy. Brazil is not the only country that is moving quickly to give their farmers access to the new technology, Canada and Argentina are quicker to approve new biotech products than the US.
Why is this important? Simple, for US farmers to remain competitive they need access to the latest technology. “This means that farmers in those countries soon will enjoy access to better crop technologies than we possess in the United States,” said Wagoner. Giving farmers in other nations a 3 year head start will reduce the ability of our farmers to complete. While the safety of biotech crops is important, the unreasonable delay in allowing these products come to market is hurting US agriculture and the US economy as well. Regulatory systems must be science-based and timely. They also must be predictable says Wagoner, “Right now, the only thing we can predict about GM crop approvals is that they’ll take far too long. On our farm, we can’t plan what to grow or when to rotate our crops.”
American innovation and investment has fueled the biotech revolution, but a government that continues to stifle this will lead to innovation and investment moving off shore to nations where products can be brought to market in a reasonable period of time. This policy must change if US agriculture is to have a chance on the world market.
By Gary Truitt