Trade associations representing the grain and oilseed sectors in the USA have asked the White House to provide more transparency, better communication and wider accountability by government agencies in the development and commercialisation of genetically-engineered (GE) products, World Grain wrote.

The coalitions submitted their comments to the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP), the 16 February report said.

A collective letter was submitted on 3 February by the North American Millers’ Association, American Frozen Food Institute, Corn Refiners Association, Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils, National Grain and Feed Association, National Grocers Association, National Oilseed Processors Association and the North American Export Grain Association.

The associations submitted their comments in response to a request by the OSTP to help identify ambiguities, gaps, inefficiencies and uncertainties in the current Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, World Grain wrote.

The Coordinated Framework, which was last updated in 2017, is the federal policy that provides guidelines for regulating the development and commercialisation process of products produced by biotechnologies. Its aim is to uphold safety standards for humans, animals and the environment through the coordinated efforts of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Although the agricultural groups confirmed their support for the utilisation and advancement of biotechnology, they said they were concerned about the framework’s lack of transparency, its ambiguity regarding agency decisions and its inability to offer a predictable time frame for biotechnology product approvals, the report said.

In a bid to address these concerns, the groups recommended several amendments to the Coordinated Framework, including mandatory notification and transparency, which would require all companies developing biotech products to notify the FDA and make their information public.

In addition, they said companies should be required to inform the FDA when a GE trait contained an allergen, and the framework should give the FDA allergen oversight on these traits as well as mandate the FDA’s review of the biotech products’ safety, nutritional and functionality claims.

The groups also recommended involving additional agencies such as the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Foreign Agricultural Service and the Office of the US Trade Representatives within the Coordinated Framework to support international marketability of innovative technologies as well as help define government strategies to overcome potential non-science-based barriers that might hold back commercial prospects.

The groups suggested a full reorganisation of the FDA to improve the agency’s structure, leadership, culture, transparency and accountability; improvement in the agencies’ outreach and communication by developing straightforward guidance on the scope of regulations, data requirements, regulatory processes and bases for decision-making for regulatory reviews, to help bolster stakeholder certainty and public trust; and a periodic review of the Coordinated Framework at least every five years to stay current and relevant on rapidly advancing biotechnology innovations, World Grain wrote.