Marianne Gillette

When it comes to public policy, no other issues transcend borders more than those involving food. But policy makers can only make sound decisions when they have the benefit of our collective scientific expertise. 

It is extremely important for the food community to have the voice of IFT heard to ensure that public policy decisions are based on scientific principles in order to target research funding that fosters innovation, ensures that the public is safe, and provides plenty of nutritious food to meet global demands. 

Over the past several years, IFT has proactively positioned itself as an authoritative spokes-organization on key food science and technology issues. As individuals and a collective community of experts, I believe we have a unique opportunity to make food science and technology the bedrock of sound policy development that will yield results for years to come. 

I’ve recently had a few opportunities myself to take part in the advancement of our role as a key spokesorganization in the public policy and regulatory outreach arena. I was fortunate to spend a few quality moments with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), who I shared thoughts with on the chronic decline of, and insufficient funding for, research in food science. He understood the dilemma and the impact on the safety of the U.S. food supply. IFT has already followed up with Senator Cardin’s office on this discussion with the intent to increase federal funding for food science research—which will hopefully include allocations for nanotechnology research. 

I had a similar conversation with Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland about funding for U.S. universities. I also had the opportunity recently to meet the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, Ertharin Cousin. Her goal of significantly increasing sustainable agriculture and increasing food security aligns well with IFT’s mission. 

Based on my interactions with each of these influential individuals, it’s apparent that IFT is in a prime position to assume a truly educational role. IFT provides scientific commentary and insight on food issues that affect public policy and legislative and regulatory developments. Food safety/defense, labeling and marketing, import and export requirements, nutrition, and other food-related concerns are all within IFT’s range of input as we strive to advance the science of food and ensure a safe and abundant food supply. 

Recognizing excellence is yet one more way that we can encourage exemplary public service on food issues. To do that, IFT established the Congressional Support for Science Award nine years ago to recognize outstanding contributions by U.S. legislators to science-based food policies and to increase the role of science in policy development. This year, IFT has selected U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and U.S. Representative Allen Boyd (D-FL) to receive the Congressional Support for Science Awards. Both members of Congress have made outstanding contributions to science-based agriculture, food, and nutrition policies. 

To truly embrace our efforts to advance IFT’s presence in the public policy and regulatory outreach arena, IFT convened a Public Policy and Regulatory Outreach (PPRO) Advisory Panel in 2009 to develop, implement, and maintain a robust, proactive, and sustainable program for public policy and regulatory outreach that positions IFT as a credible, independent scientific voice on food-related issues. 

Last summer, your IFT Board of Directors approved three recommendations developed by this Advisory Panel: (1) a robust selection process to identify priority issues; (2) establishment of a team to oversee PPRO initiatives within IFT; and (3) creation of an interactive system to communicate with IFT members on public policy and regulatory issues. 

As a follow-up to the PPRO Advisory Panel, IFT convened a PPRO Implementation Task Force to develop and implement a robust, tactical federal and regulatory policy program aimed at solving real, substantive food science-related problems. The task force has identified strategic opportunities to address within the three topical areas of food safety, health & wellness, and emerging technologies, and has selected teams for each of these areas. The task force will present recommendations to the IFT Board of Directors this July. 

Our office in Washington, D.C. is working diligently to ensure that reliable scientific information and industry knowledge are integral in the planning and implementation of U.S. public policy and domestic and international food laws. So much promise and potential awaits us in the public policy and regulatory outreach arena, as we forge ahead on all of these important initiatives that impact so many lives. 

by Marianne Gillette
IFT President, 2009–2010
Vice President of Technical Competencies and Platforms, McCormick & Co. Inc.,
Hunt Valley, Md.
[email protected]

In This Article

  1. Food Policy