Marty Marr, a corn farmer from New Berlin and a Director on the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, had the privilege of hosting a Japanese trade team last week to discuss biotechnology and recent developments and implications to new technologies on the farm.
Japan is consistently among the world's leaders in biotechnology regulation, boasting a system that is science-based and, therefore, effective, timely and transparent. This does not happen by accident. Among the key contributing factors are the sophistication and scientific integrity of the regulatory teams that implement the system.
To help sustain this benchmark of success within one of our most important trading partners, the U.S. Grains Council, of which Illinois Corn is a member, was privileged last week to host a team of Japanese biotechnology regulatory officials, who were visiting the United States to learn about the latest developments in the field. Marr’s New Berlin farm was one stop on their agenda.
"In Japan, many central government officials, including biotechnology regulatory officials, rotate to different positions every two to four years," said Tommy Hamamoto, USGC director in Japan. "This keeps people fresh, and helps make sure they don't get stuck in a rut. But it also means that constant education and training are needed to keep relatively new officials on top of the latest developments."
Last week's team focused on the scientific risk assessment of U.S. agricultural biotech products, as well as the systems of production, inspection and export of these products. The mission included meetings with a major biotech developer; field visits with scientists conducting tests for biotech varieties in grain exports; and inspections of river and export terminals.
"A special highlight for the team was the opportunity to visit with two Illinois farmers to learn about the agronomic advantages of biotechnology in the field," Hamamoto said. "The new varieties reduce the use of pesticides, reduce soil erosion, save labor and energy, and make farming more sustainable. We are very grateful to the producers for providing their unique perspective on the newest technologies."
The visit concluded with meetings in Washington, D.C., with representatives from the life science companies and U.S. government regulatory officials.
The Japanese regulators returned home with a better understanding of the scientific rigor of the U.S. development and safety system, the pipeline of upcoming biotech products and the benefits of biotechnology for growers.
Continuing team visits like this one is an important investment in keeping the U.S.-Japanese partnership strong.