The policy that we have at USDA is that there are at times the need for those antibiotics, and they need to be used judiciously. So, that’s the standard by which we want to basically encourage folks to live up to: judicious use. If you have an animal that is sick you obviously have to tend to that animal. And we are encouraging that kind of approach as opposed to using them for other purposes that are not health related.
But 70 percent are used on healthy animals, 10 percent are used on sick animals. The government has known the dangers of this for a very long time. This to me is like a low-hanging fruit. The government could do something about this.
I’m not quite sure. How do you basically legislate that?
You regulate. Europe did it.
Yeah, that’s true, Europe did it. Denmark, with due respect, is a bit smaller than the United States. It is not as easy as it appears. And what we’re trying to do now is make sure that folks understand that it’s in their long-term, the farmers’ long-term best interest to use antibiotics judiciously.
My name is Deborah Koons Garcia. I’m a filmmaker. I made a film called “The Future of Food” which is about genetic engineering. So, my question is about genetic engineering. I’m specifically asking about your approval of genetically engineered alfalfa.
Since only 7 percent of alfalfa is sprayed, a lot of us didn’t see the need for that, other than it being able to contaminate organic and non-GMO fields.
And so I am asking: How can you justify that?
My second question is: Since genetically engineered food is labeled in many other countries in the world, [why not label it here] so that people that want to eat it can, and the people who don’t want to eat it can avoid it?
I’m about to have a conversation with you that is sort of like asking me which of my two sons I love the most. I love them both. And I know that everyone, virtually everybody in this room, will disagree with this, but I think it’s important for me to say it. You asked specifically why I took the action I took? Well, the reason is because that’s what the law requires. And when I took the oath of office for this office I swore to uphold the law.
The Plant Protection Act is fairly narrow in terms of the scope of that protection and the decisions that the secretary of agriculture has to make. When I made that decision, I tried to precipitate a conversation which has been missing and lacking in this discussion that we — you and I — are now having, which is an important and very vital discussion.