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Biotechnology

New Tools Leading to Local Coexistence

American agriculture today is a complex web of producers, processors, and marketers all working to produce a safe and nutritious food supply and serve the needs and wants of consumers here in the U.S. and all across the world. As people have become more interested in what they eat and where their food comes from, the wide range of consumer preferences has led to a highly diversified marketplace.

Some consumers shop based solely on price, and others are drawn to the latest products they find in their grocery stores. Some try to buy locally produced food, and others seek out organic products. Because our farmers grow crops to meet all preferences, they often need to take special precautions, such as keeping their crops separated from their neighbor’s production, and ensuring their harvest is diverted into the correct product stream. This can be a challenge for those that share the land, machinery, or shipping equipment with their neighbors. They need to find a way to produce crops with the specifications their markets require, while also coexisting with nearby farms growing products for other markets.

Growing and Building the Billion Ton Bioeconomy

5/4/2016 UPDATE:

Bioeconomy Webinar Information:
Thursday, May 5, 2 p.m.–4 p.m. Eastern Time
Session Link: https://thinktank.inl.gov/login.html?sessionID=59
Session Passkey: 123
Call in: +1 (562) 247-8422
Access Code: 287-084-886

The USDA and other federal agencies recently released the Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy (FARB) documenting federal agency activities aimed at helping to develop and support the "bioeconomy" - an emerging part of the overall U.S. economy.  Emphasis is specifically placed on the production and use of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower.  USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE), Dr. Catherine Woteki, stresses these fuels, power, and products are produced using biomass--agricultural residues, grasses, energy crops, forestry trimmings, algae, and other sources--instead of fossil fuels.

The report also delves into the Billion Ton Bioeconomy Vision, an effort coordinated through the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Board.  Comprised of industry experts from the Departments of Energy (DOE), Agriculture (USDA), Interior (DOI), Transportation (DOT), Defense (DoD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Board is committed to collaboration among federal agencies on bioeconomy conceptions working to triple the size of today’s bioeconomy by 2030—to more than a billion tons of biomass.

2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum - Panel Discussion on Innovation, Biotechnology and Big Data

Innovation, biotechnology and big data are changing the way we produce, distribute and even consume food. From using innovative approaches to improve food safety to sharing market data to assist producers in reaching larger markets, big data and new technologies continue to change the face of agriculture.  USDA strives to meet these evolving challenges and will be discussing these issues through the lens of agriculture at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum on Feb. 19-20 in Arlington, Virginia.

Big data isn’t just massive amounts of numbers and codes for scientists, researchers and marketers.  That information, when interpreted and applied, can help people understand – and change – the world around them.  We are discussing how data helps producers of agricultural commodities in adapting their strategies to meet changing consumer demands, marketing practices and technologies.

Borlaug Fellows Gain Inspiration, Insight During World Food Prize

Every year the World Food Prize recognizes the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug created the prize, which emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people.

This year’s event was held from Oct. 16-19 in Des Moines, Iowa, and also included a USDA-sponsored symposium for 40 foreign scientists from 23 countries (and their university mentors) in the Foreign Agricultural Service Borlaug Fellowship Program. Since 2004, the program has provided U.S.-based training and collaborative research opportunity for scientists and policymakers from developing and middle-income countries to promote food security and economic growth.

GIPSA's National Grain Center Hosts Secretary Tom Vilsack

The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s (GIPSA) National Grain Center (NGC) was proud to host Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday, October 23.  The NGC, located in Kansas City, MO, is home to the Federal Grain Inspection Service’s (FGIS) Technology and Science Division along with staff from FGIS’ Quality Assurance and Compliance Division and Field Management Division.

The grain inspectors, scientists and engineers at the NGC provide a broad spectrum of grain inspection services and support within recently renovated state of the art laboratories.   During the visit, NGC staff demonstrated how they oversee, develop and approve methods and instruments used for grain inspection that ensure the consistent standard of measuring quality essential to grain marketing.

Secretary Leads Business Roundtable Discussion with U.S. and Mexican Agribusiness Representatives

On Friday, May 17, 2013, in Mexico City, Mexico USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack led U.S. and Mexican agribusiness representatives in a discussion of priority issues affecting North American agriculture. The roundtable’s participants represented the breadth and diversity of agricultural trade between the United States and Mexico. Representatives from Grupo Bimbo, Gruma, Driscoll’s, Cargill, and others joined the Secretary, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne, and Acting Deputy Under Secretaries Suzanne Heinen and Max Holtzman to share their views on the opportunities and obstacles facing increased agricultural trade between the United States and Mexico.

Organic 101: Can GMOs Be Used in Organic Products?

This is the thirteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table.

Organic operations implement preventive practices based on site-specific risk factors, such as neighboring conventional farms or shared farm equipment or processing facilities.  For example, some farmers plant their seeds early or late to avoid organic and GMO crops flowering at the same time (which can cause cross-pollination). Others harvest crops prior to flowering or sign cooperative agreements with neighboring farms to avoid planting GMO crops next to organic ones. Farmers also designate the edges of their land as a buffer zone where the land is managed organically, but the crops aren’t sold as organic. Any shared farm or processing equipment must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent unintended exposure to GMOs or prohibited substances.

USDA’s Biotechnology Deregulation Process

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) works diligently to ensure that genetically engineered (GE) organisms such as Pioneer’s hybrid corn seed is just as safe for agriculture and the environment as traditionally bred crop varieties.

Our biotechnology deregulation process is a complex method of evaluation that we take very seriously. Our involvement begins when an organization wishes to import, move interstate, or field-test a GE plant, which is done under our permitting and notification system.

Down on the Farm with Indonesia’s Vice Minister of Agriculture

On Monday, I had the honor of hosting Indonesia’s Vice Minister of Agriculture Bayu Krisnamurthi at my 1,700-acre corn, soybean, and wheat farm in Smyrna, Delaware. This opportunity is a direct result of my visit last month to Jakarta where I led 18 U.S. companies on an Agribusiness Trade and Investment Mission. When Vice Minister Bayu told me he would be traveling to the United States this month, I invited him to visit my farm. He warmly accepted my invitation.

The United States and Indonesia are strong allies and trade between us continues to grow. In November 2010, President Obama and President Yudhoyono formally launched the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership. Through this partnership, both of our countries are looking to expand trade and investment and commercial relationships, creating tremendous possibilities for economic development and cooperation.

FACT from FICTION on Pilot Project to Enhance Quality, Timeliness and Cost-Effectiveness of Environmental Analyses and Documents Related to Biotechnology

We have seen several stories and concerned comments circulating on blogs regarding USDA’s pilot project to examine ways to enhance quality, timeliness and cost effectiveness of environmental analyses and documents related to biotechnology. We want to separate fact from fiction and ensure that the public knows exactly what this pilot program will do and what it will not do.

The pilot program will test an approach where USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will work closely with petitioners and outside experts while maintaining responsibility for scope and content of its environmental analyses. The pilot program will not allow biotechnology firms to conduct their own environmental assessments (EA) or environmental impact statements (EIS).