When it comes to agricultural biotechnology, Federal regulations are falling behind the times, says NET Nebraska. “There’s a lot of technology sitting on the shelf in Nebraska, and Illinois, and Missouri that’ll never see the light of day because of [Federal] regulations,” explains plant scientist Tom Clemente.
Clemente and his team in Lincoln are currently working on a type of sorghum engineered to make oil instead of sugar. The crop could be used to make fuel or chemicals. But a project like this oil-producing sorghum will need massive backing from a company like Monsanto or Syngenta, if it ever wants to see the light of day. These endeavors are simply too time-consuming and expensive for the public sector to undertake. But corporations won’t jump on board unless they see dollar signs. Which can leave scientists like Clemente between a rock and a hard place.
Things may be looking up, though. Last year the White House told the three federal agencies to update their regulatory systems. The feds would like to open a simpler path for new biotechnology. A proposal is expected this fall.