Nov 6, 2017
Proposed GMOs biotech rule withdrawn by USDA

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is withdrawing a proposed rule that would have revised the agency’s biotechnology regulations, the group announced Nov. 6.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue attends the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) groundbreaking ceremony at the U.S. National Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Georgia, on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. USDA photo by Monica Williams

APHIS, which oversees the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), will re-engage with stakeholders to determine the most effective, science-based approach for regulating the products of modern biotechnology while protecting plant health, the service said in a release.

“It’s critical that our regulatory requirements foster public confidence and empower American agriculture while also providing industry with an efficient and transparent review process that doesn’t restrict innovation,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “To ensure we effectively balance the two, we need to take a fresh look, explore policy alternatives, and continue the dialogue with all interested stakeholders, both domestic and international.”

APHIS oversees the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of GMOs to ensure they do not pose a plant pest risk. The work will continue while APHIS re-engages with stakeholders.

“Today, we need to feed some 7 billion people. By the year 2050, that population will swell to 9.5 billion, over half of which will be living in under-developed conditions. To put the demand for food into perspective, we are going to have to double our production between now and 2050. We will have to produce more food in the next 30 years than has been produced in the last 8,000 years. Innovations in biotechnology have been helping American farmers produce food more efficiently for more than 20 years, and that framework has been essential to that productivity,” Perdue said. “We know that this technology is evolving every day, and we need regulations and policies that are flexible and adaptable to these innovations to ensure food security for the growing population.”

As more information becomes available, it will be posted on the APHIS website.

ASTA issues plea for ‘direction’

In a statement, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) said it encouraged USDA is taking steps to consider different policy options and will continue to engage on the important topic of plant breeding innovation, both domestically and globally. 

“It’s important that the administration moves forward without delay in soliciting stakeholder feedback on policy around plant breeding innovation while actively engaging in the ongoing dialogue at the global level,” said ASTA President & CEO Andrew W. LaVigne. “Public and private sector plant-scientists around the world are investing in a great deal of research using newer methods like gene editing across a wide variety of crops – with exciting potential for farmers, consumers and the environment. However, in order for these benefits to be fully realized, and widely adopted across breeding programs of all sizes and sectors, developers need clear, science-based, policy direction.”  

ASTA supported some key aspects of the proposed rule – most importantly, its recognition that some applications of gene editing result in plant varieties that are essentially equivalent to varieties developed through more traditional breeding methods, and should be treated as such from a policy perspective. 

“We look forward to working with USDA to ensure consistent, science-based policies that foster continued innovation and promote the trade of safe and quality seed and other agricultural products around world,” said LaVigne.

For more information on plant breeding innovation, including newer methods like gene editing, visit seedinginnovation.org.  





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