USDA scraps proposed biotechnology regulation change
November 23, 2017
The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has withdrawn a proposed rule change to its biotechnology regulations put forward by the outgoing Obama administration in January.
The proposal – withdrawn after a comment period due to several companies and scientists voicing their opposition – would have changed APHIS’ current ‘regulate first, analyse later’ approach to one that would have required identifying a potential risk before regulating a crop, wrote Genetic Literacy Project on 7 November.
“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 US agriculture 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,” he added.
APHIS would be re-engaging with stakeholders to develop an alternative.
The American Soybean Association (ASA) said it supported the effort to revise the biotech rules, but argued that if the change had gone through as written, it would have stifled innovation and increased the regulatory burden on the industry.
Wayne Parrot, professor at the University of Georgia Center for Applied Genetic Technologies, echoed the ASA view, bidding the proposed rule “good riddance”.
“It was well-intentioned, but lacked important details. It maintained an unscientific basis for regulation, and could have made the system even more dysfunctional than it already is,” Parrot said.
Secretary Perdue called for the eventual new rule to be both “flexible and adaptable” to ensure new biotech innovations secured food sustainability in the face of growing global population.
“Innovations in biotechnology have been helping American farmers produce food more efficiently for more than 20 years and [this] framework has been essential to that productivity,” Perdue said.