Gene editing, innovation important for the future of agriculture
After President Donald Trump on Tuesday issued an executive order, “Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products,” National Pork Producers Council President David Herring said, “We are hopeful that this executive order breaks the FDA’s [Food and Drug Administration’s] current grip on gene editing so a regulatory framework can be established at the USDA to ensure that American farmers – not our competitors in foreign markets – realize its vast potential.”
Herring continued, “The FDA continues to advance a regulatory framework for gene-edited livestock that runs counter to today’s executive order. Despite no statutory requirement, the FDA currently holds regulatory authority over gene editing in food-producing animals. FDA oversight will treat any gene-edited animal as a living animal drug – and every farm raising them a drug-manufacturing facility – undermining U.S. agricultural competitiveness relative to other countries with more progressive gene-editing regulatory policies.”
“The executive order (EO) provides a framework to support leadership in emerging technologies such as gene editing for livestock, an innovation that promises to eliminate costly diseases that cause animal suffering, lower the need to use antibiotics and to further reduce agriculture’s environmental impact. The EO directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to collaborate on common-sense regulations and to develop awareness and education programs to gain acceptance of new technologies by consumers and global trading partners,” NPPC said.
“The United States is falling behind countries such as Canada, Brazil and China that have established regulatory frameworks conducive to investment in the development of gene editing,” said Herring.
NPPC will launch a new campaign, Keep America First in Agriculture, later this month to broaden awareness and understanding of gene editing’s promise for livestock agriculture, Herring added.
Other groups issued more general statements.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “Having an updated, transparent and scientifically sound regulatory system for agricultural biotechnology is critical if American farmers and ranchers are to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. I applaud President Trump for his executive order that will foster policy to spur agricultural innovation, encourage engagement and alignment at the global level and provide a firm foundation for the future of gene-edited crops and animals. Innovative solutions have been a creed for American agriculture for a long time, and with yesterday’s action by the president, it ensures a framework and directive for agricultural innovation well into the future.”
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Barb Glenn said, “In this executive order, we see a pathway to address concerns that we’ve had for years. While farmers have seen soaring advancements in plant biotechnology, animal biotechnology tools have been withheld from farmers and ranchers due to a tangled regulatory process.”
But Alison Cohen of WhyHunger, a New York-based food justice group, said, “This regulatory streamlining Executive Order (EO) for biotech is a gross misstep towards ending hunger, combating climate change and building a just food and farm system. Essentially the EO is giving a blank check to Monsanto, ADM and the like to continue with their practice of industry consolidation. It effectively negates the science indicating that one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions come from industrialized agriculture, and ultimately portends further bio-tech related public health concerns for all of us.
“There is no solution to climate change and hunger while industrial agriculture and international agri-food businesses dominate and pollute our fields, oceans, food stocks and markets,” Cohen continued. “What is needed are better agro-ecological practices, as well as a joined-up approach that understands the most pressing social issues of our time — hunger, poverty, racial injustice, immigration, war and conflict, weakened democracies – are part and parcel with the most pressing environmental issues of our time.”
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “Our current regulatory framework has impeded innovation instead of facilitating it. With this executive order, President Trump is once again putting America first and setting us on a course to modernize our regulatory framework so that it works for our farmers, ranchers, and consumers. 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.”
Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer emphasized that many countries bar U.S. foods developed through biotechnology.
“American farmers have made the United States an agricultural powerhouse through these safe and effective innovations. Unfortunately, many of our key trading partners maintain unfair trade barriers to U.S. agricultural exports of products developed through biotechnology. In response to the president’s order, USTR will convene the Trade Policy Staff Committee as soon as possible to develop an international strategy to reduce barriers overseas to U.S. agricultural biotechnology products.”