USDA announces proposed rule on genetically engineered organisms
The Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has released a proposed rule, Movement of Certain Genetically Engineered Organisms, to update the department’s biotechnology regulations with what the Trump administration calls “a balanced approach that continues to protect plant health while allowing agricultural innovation to thrive.”
USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach said the proposal was guided by “the principles: Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient, or SECURE for short.”
“As the name SECURE implies, this proposed rule incorporates the need for efficient and sustainable agricultural production to help feed and clothe the world, combined with responsible and predictable regulatory oversight to safeguard America’s ecology and plant health,” Ibach added.
SECURE would mark the first significant revision of USDA’s biotechnology regulations since they were established in 1987, APHIS noted.
APHIS “oversees the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of genetically engineered organisms to ensure they do not pose a plant pest risk. SECURE is designed to have sufficient regulatory flexibility for advances in genetic engineering and our understanding of the plant pest risk posed by them. SECURE also incorporates certain provisions of the 2008 farm bill and recommendations from the 2015 USDA Office of Inspector General report on GE organisms,” Ibach noted.
“SECURE would enable APHIS to evaluate GE organisms for plant pest risk with greater precision than the current rule allows, ensuring oversight and risk are based on the best available science,” said Ibach. “This common-sense approach will ultimately give farmers more choices in the field and consumers more choices at the grocery store.”
USDA’s proposed rule will be available for public review, and comments will be accepted for 60 days beginning Thursday through August 5, 2019. “Additionally, USDA plans to publish a draft programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) soon, and we look forward to stakeholder input on that document,” Ibach said.
Dana O’Brien, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s food & agriculture section, said in a statement, “BIO appreciates USDA’s diligent approach in undertaking this important biotechnology rulemaking and the agency’s overall commitment to improving predictability and pre-market oversight based on actual risk. We are thoroughly reviewing the proposal with our members as well as with key stakeholders and look forward to engaging with USDA in the coming weeks.”
–The Hagstrom Report
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