Commentary: Remove the Regulatory Roadblocks to Feeding a Hungry World (Dave Ladd, RDL & Associates)

Farmers face countless delays when planting and harvesting their crops.  The last thing they need is a thicket of regulatory delays that hinder their ability to utilize enhanced agricultural technologies.  Unfortunately, that is the case when it comes to enhanced crop traits and advanced herbicide application.

It is estimated that by 2050 the world population will require 100 percent more food, with 70 percent coming from enhanced-efficiency technology.  The challenges of feeding a growing world population on a fixed land base, as well as increased competition for water and other natural resources, will have significant ramifications for food security both domestically and abroad.

Continued advancements in agricultural technology are critical to feeding a hungry world.  Increased crop yields, mitigation of the environmental impact of agricultural practices, and development of crops that are tolerant of poor environmental conditions such as drought or excessive weeds all play an important role in America’s farmers fulfilling this important mission.

For example, the Enlist Weed Control system represents one of the first new weed-control systems to hit the market in more than a decade.  It combines a proprietary blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D choline with innovative crop traits that can tolerate that herbicide.  The end result is a product that can kill weeds without harming crops.

With more than 4,000 peer-reviewed publications over the past six decades, no herbicide has been more studied than 2,4-D.  When used according to label and product instructions, 2,4-D does not pose any unreasonable or unnecessary risk to humans, animals or the environment.

Regulatory agencies in more than 70 countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have authorized use of 2,4-D within the last decade, based on their own rigorous evaluations of the data and potential effects of the herbicide on human health and the environment.

Herbicides are vital tools in helping farmers manage one of the most significant threats to crops: weeds. Effective weed management allows for the use of fewer resources, in the form of less fertilizer, water and fuel, due to reduced tillage. The results are less soil erosion, higher crop yields, lower food prices and U.S. farmers maintaining a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

Opponents of allowing farmers access to enhanced crop traits and enhanced agricultural technology continue to sow seeds of fear and misinformation, resulting in a harvest of regulatory delay.  They choose to appeal to emotion while ignoring sound science and they willfully choose to ignore that responsible practices, coupled with herbicide formulation improvements, help prevent off-target movement and harm that may harm neighboring crops caused by drift and volatility.

The ongoing collaboration between farmers, sensitive crop grower groups, state regulatory agencies, the crop protection sector and projects such as DriftWatch have enhanced our understanding of enhanced agricultural technologies.

It is time for the Obama Administration to break the regulatory impasse that has delayed movement of enhanced technology to the marketplace.  In so, the Administration will provide farmers the option of avoiding additional equipment, fuel and labor expenses as they continue to practice conservation tillage – while, at the same time, effectively controlling weeds.

A growing population and a hungry world await the bounty produced by America’s farmers.

Dave Ladd is a frequent guest commentator regarding public policy and the political environment.  His company, RDL & Associates, assists clients in achieving their legislative and policy objectives via strategic communications, message development and interaction with elected officials.

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