Gary Goldberg, CEO
The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) appreciates this opportunity to share our comments before the USDA Advisory Committee for Agricultural Biotechnology. The ACGA represents over 14,000 corn growers from all across the United States. We are the nation's largest progressive commodity association that prides itself on our ability to represent the voices of the nation's corn producers. We will express our concerns and reservations over the so-called Terminator technology and also continue to express our disappointment in the involvement and investment of the United States Department of Agriculture in this technology and point out the inappropriateness of such investments.
To the ACGA, the question that needs to be addressed before USDA moves forward on research and technology is - Is it good and beneficial for U.S. farmers? We have found no area in this technology that we can say would be good or beneficial to American farmers. The ability for farmers to retain seed for the next growing season has been a fundamental right passed on for hundreds of years. This ability has allowed farmers to save money while guaranteeing the availability of seed for the next year.
While corn does not fit into the mix of seeds that can be retained, every member of the ACGA plants an additional crop, usually soybeans, cotton, wheat or rice. For these crops, seed can be retained and should be allowed to do so. However, the "terminator" technology or GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies) takes seed retention options away.
Why would the USDA invest taxpayer dollars in such a technology? That's a question the ACGA has asked from day one. Sterile seeds hold no advantage to production agriculture but certainly hold advantages for agribusiness entities. After all, the sole purpose for the development of terminator was an economic one, whereas seed companies can force farmers to purchase new seed every year. Is it appropriate for USDA to use public dollars to help the economic well-being of seed, chemical or biotechnology companies at the expense of production agriculture? The answer is a simple and resounding NO.
While there is a legitimate debate going on within many agricultural associations about the benefits versus risks of genetically modified crops and the uncertainty over marketability. segregation and legal liability, there is mostly unanimity among these same groups over their opposition to the Terminator. The motives of the biotechnology companies are transparent when it comes to GURTs, with economics being the only motive involved with no benefit for the American farmer or the rest of the world.
Research dollars must be used in a wise fashion. They must show a genuine public good that will result. It is clear that Terminator/GURT technology doesn't hold that same high standard of what is in the public's best interest. Therefore, the American Corn Growers Association strongly recommends the following measures that should be undertaken immediately.
Allowing a small handful of biotechnology companies to control the production and distribution of seed makes farmers hostage to the economic exploitation by this industry. We will lose the ability to choose the seeds we want to plant and the option of holding back that seed for another year.
This debate is important because it brings to the forefront the discussion of just what the Department of Agriculture should be and who should the Department represent. It is our opinion, that USDA should be an advocacy agency, working to protect those Americans who give of their lives to produce food for the rest of us. It should be an agency that works to protect all our citizens through the production and distribution of a safe food supply. It should NOT be an agency that allows certain segments of agribusiness to reap huge financial rewards under the cover of the Department of Agriculture or with the financial blessing of the Department of Agriculture.
It is in the public good for farmers to sustain themselves and the families they feed. It is in the public good for the United States to have a plentiful and safe food production and distribution system. It is in the public good for farmers to be allowed to retain seed for the next growing season. And it is in the public good for USDA research dollars to be used to help mankind, not hinder it.
It is NOT in the public good to use public taxpayer dollars to further the financial well-being of the biotechnology industry or to shortchange the economic well-being of production agriculture.
History tells many stories about the legacy of public representatives and the institutions they hold dear. It would be most unfortunate if the legacy of this Department of Agriculture were to be tied to the Terminator/GURT technology. There are clearly better ways to expend public research dollars that help mankind. Let us all recognize what our mission is on this earth and how best we can work together to achieve a lasting legacy of safe, affordable food produced by another generation of family farmers. That is a decision that is in the hands of this Advisory Committee. Please don't squander this opportunity to do want is right, sensible and just.
Thank you very much.
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **
Last Updated on 10/28/99
By Karen Lutz