KEVIN Shea, administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, testified before the House appropriations agriculture subcommittee April 2 about the current backlog of pending petitions for biotechnology products.
Shea told subcommittee members that USDA plans to have the backlog reduced by half within a year.
Another witness was Ed Avalos, USDA undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs, who said USDA is committed to reducing the current petition timeline, which many throughout the agriculture industry feel is too long and costly, putting growers from the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage to other nations that make biotech products readily available in a more timely fashion.
Subcommittee chair Rep. Robert Aderholt (R., Ala.) asked why the process to review petitions is so lengthy — noting that it took nearly 900 days to approve only eight products — and expressed concern that the "politics of biotech may be interfering with the scientific review process."
Also, during an April 3 House Agriculture Committee hearing, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said it's important that USDA not "short circuit" any approvals in order to ensure that they can stand up against litigation.
When asked whether some type of legislation could speed up the approval process, Vilsack questioned Congress' ability to craft something that could drum up support from a majority of members in both chambers.