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Will Regulations Continue to Hamper Innovation in Ag?

Last week, NC Chamber General Counsel and President of the NC Chamber Legal Institute Ray Starling attended an “NC Ag Tech Investor Forum” coordinated by the NC Biotechnology Center and hosted at the Executive Briefing Center on the SAS campus.

The forum focused on the topics of biocontrol and bioyield. The terms “biocontrol” and “bioyield” refer to agents that enhance or maximize the efficacy of naturally occurring microbes and enzymes in promoting growth (and suppressing pests, which is another way to promote growth).

There were companies who were in “start-up” and “scale-up” phases that discussed the innovations they are perfecting and bringing to market. For example, one company has isolated a naturally occurring soil-borne fungus that frees nitrogen for easier use by plants. That fungus can be propagated and then added back into soils for an even more robust result than is already occurring in nature.

Very generally, the idea behind the promotion of more biologics in plant growth and pest control is to get more out of what is already in the soil or plant as opposed to adding more to it in the form of synthetic (or even organic) fertilizers and pesticides.

Perhaps most notable though was a discussion facilitated by Dr. Paul Ulanch, a senior director in the Biotechnology Center’s Agriculture Sector Development unit, at the outset of the event. What Ray, a lifelong aggie, found fascinating from this discussion is that there was near unanimity of opinion regarding what is perceived to be the biggest challenge/threat to the deployment of these technologies. You probably guessed it. The policy/regulatory path for approval.

It was widely agreed that the U.S. regulatory system for these products, biologics and biostimulants, is so confounding that companies regularly resort to deploying their inaugural technology in Brazil, which has a much faster approval process.

As Ray noted to the NC Ag Leads steering committee, “All the talk of faster technological deployment, particularly among our most marginalized farmers, is bound to remain as that – talking – if the U.S. regulatory system prevents the very products being developed in RTP from being released in the rural marketplace expeditiously.”

Your NC Chamber is certainly committed to continued efforts to ensure that regulatory processes move at the speed of business.