Ag Policy Blog

Lawmakers Urge Consistent Approach to Federal Regulation of Biotechnology

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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In a letter to three federal agency heads on Tuesday, a group of 79 bipartisan members of the United States House of Representatives expressed concern about the direction being taken to regulate agriculture biotechnology,….

In particular, in the letter to Scott Pruitt, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Scott Gotlieb, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the lawmakers pointed to two regulations currently being re-drafted.

On Jan. 19, 2017, USDA's Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service published a draft revision to its so-called Part 340 biotechnology regulations. Also, the FDA proposed expansion of the scope of guidance for industry to regulate gene-editing techniques.

"While we appreciate the thoughtful, science-based direction USDA offers on products of biotechnology and gene editing that APHIS has ample experience regulating," the letter said, "we are concerned that these drafts offer deeply conflicting regulatory approaches. Moreover, we do not believe they provide the consistent, appropriate system needed to promote the development of these innovative tools.

"These contradictory proposals have sent inconsistent signals to our trade partners, who are in the midst of determining their own approaches to these technologies. We are concerned that if the administration does not quickly develop a uniform position on biotechnology in agriculture, including gene editing, we will see an unworkable patchwork of international regulations emerge that will effectively further suppress American innovation and the solutions that come with it."

The lawmakers urge the agencies to continue to work with stakeholders to improve the proposals.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement in response that farmers and ranchers need proper federal direction to continue to make technological gains.

"American agriculture must stay on the cutting edge of technology," Duvall said.

"Agency collaboration and efficient government review of new food production methods will help foster public confidence, provide our farmers and ranchers tools that enhance their productivity and respect the diversity of our nation's crops and cropping systems."

Duvall urged the department and agency leaders to coordinate and advance timely reviews of advances in biotechnology and biology-based tools including gene editing. He said policies and strategies should embrace the review of innovation, domestically and internationally, through the president's Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.

"We will continue to highlight the need for a sound scientific and appropriate risk-based regulatory approach that will ensure farmers and ranchers have the tools and innovation they need to meet the challenges of the future in the most sustainable way possible," Duvall said.

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