Biotechnology fits into president's vision of clean technology

BOISE, Idaho -- Will President Obama be a supporter of agricultural biotechnology? If his inaugural address is any indication, the answer is a resounding yes.

BOISE, Idaho -- Will President Obama be a supporter of agricultural biotechnology? If his inaugural address is any indication, the answer is a resounding yes.

He didn't mention the word, but those of us who know the value of developing new agricultural technologies could see biotechnology's place in many of the themes the new president expressed in his address.

He spoke of jobs being lost during our economic downturn, but biotechnology promises new jobs. America is unquestionably the world's leader in this industry, which didn't even exist 20 years ago but is now one that promises many new jobs in agricultural and pharmaceutical research. With old industries being shipped overseas or moving into malaise, we can find optimism that a new industry is blossoming and thriving.

Not only does biotechnology offer new jobs for urban workers, it is bringing increased profitability to farmers and stimulus to rural economies.

Restoring science


The new president says he envisions a nation where "we will restore science to its rightful place and wield technological wonders."

No technology ever has been as thoroughly tested and scientifically analyzed as biotechnology, but still misinformation, emotion and outright dishonesty threaten its development. If science is to be the chief determinant of our progress, biotechnology unquestionably should move forward in the Obama administration.

President Obama says we are challenged to use energy in ways that do not strengthen our adversaries or weaken our planet.

Agriculture, which is carried out on hundreds of millions of acres across our land, is a major contributor to energy consumption, fuel emission and soil erosion. The advent of biotech crops has enabled conservation tillage, which reduces trips across fields, keeps soil in place so it does not run off into streams, reduces herbicide applications and leaves crop residue on fields during the winter as food for wildlife. This highly sustainable technology also enables higher yields, so crops can be used for alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.

Needed growth

Biotechnology must be extended beyond our shores if we are to meet the great challenges of the next decades. In the next 20 years, global population is expected to increase by 50 percent, to nearly 9 billion people. Demand for food is projected to double. Unless we want to destroy wild lands to create more acres for agriculture, we must increase yields at home and abroad. President Obama has pledged to the people of poor nations that America will "work alongside you to make your farms flourish." Improved seeds, with built-in protection against insects, disease and drought, are essential to accomplish this goal.

But a global climate of acceptance also is essential. Our new president, who is being hailed around the world, can be a great champion for the expansion of biotechnology.

President Obama gave a resounding salute to those individuals and industries that have fueled our nation's economy in the past.


"It has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom," he says.

In contrast, naysayers, panderers and Luddites throughout history have sought to halt new technologies. Fortunately, they have had limited success. Farmers, who have seen biotechnology reduce our environmental footprint, increase our profits and expand our crop yields, are optimistic that those who seek to continue bringing new technologies to agriculture will not be stymied by onerous regulation or demagoguery. The president's words give us hope.

Editor's Note: Jones of Boise, Idaho, is a board member of Growers for Biotechnology.

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