On June 11, President Donald Trump signed the Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products Executive Order, EO 138. The order calls for regulatory streamlining in order to allow ag biotech to get to the market efficiently and safely using consistent, transparent and science-based regulations.

“Our current regulatory framework has impeded innovation instead of facilitating it,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We need all the tools in the toolbox to meet the challenge of feeding everyone now and into the future—if we do not put these safe biotechnology advances to work here at home, our competitors in other nations will.”  

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement specifically addresses agricultural biotechnology, the first time a trade agreement addresses biotech. This includes all biotechnologies, from traditional rDNA technology to genome editing, according to the USDA.

Three federal agencies, USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, operate under the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology to regulate biotech products. USDA focuses on regulations that cover plant health. FDA oversees food and feed safety. EPA regulates the sale, distribution and testing of pesticides to protect both human health and the environment.

In April 2017 Trump issued an executive order to establish the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. Among the many needs it identified, the task force recommended further modernizing of the biotech regulatory system. Commercialization of new biotechnology products was lagging, because of difficult to navigate regulatory systems for smaller and mid-sized innovators. And consumers needed better education about the science-based approach to regulations, both domestically and internationally.

Industry groups are applauding the move. The American Soybean Association President Davie Stephens, of Kentucky, said “soybean farmers appreciate the steps toward a more consistent, coordinated approach to the biotech regulatory system domestically and abroad.”

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization is a trade association representing biotech companies, academic institutions and related organizations in the U.S.  BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood said his organization backs this move to ensure that government policy doesn’t hinder 21st century biotechnology from addressing food crisis and climate change.

“America is on the threshold of entering a new era of sustainable agriculture and food production and it’s important we get this right for farmers, consumers, U.S. companies and the world as a whole,” he said. “With prudent regulations we can foster American innovation and bring to market biology-driven solutions that are improving nutrition, reducing food waste, increasing crop yield, combating debilitating crop diseases, and advancing environmentally friendly farming practices.”

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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