USDA APHIS posts Notice of Intent on Biotechnology Regulation
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register, indicating plans to prepare an environmental impact statement on the introduction of biotechnology products. The goal of the Notice is to identify “reasonable alternatives and potential issues to be evaluated in the environmental impact statement” as well as to redefine the term “biotechnology”. This is the first step in beginning USDA’s overhaul of its biotechnology regulations since its current processes were developed over thirty years ago. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) hopes to accelerate the development of new crop traits considered to be of little risk to the environment, as well as determine regulatory requirements for specific new breeding techniques, such as gene editing.
New breeding techniques are valuable to breeders as the technology continues to advance, especially to public breeders of wheat who are excited to incorporate the technology into their respective programs. These techniques vastly differ from biotechnology, as currently defined, which adheres to strict regulation and serves as one tool of many for a breeder to use when overcoming challenges related to plant pests and nutritional improvements for the consumer.
The USDA Notice of Intent specifies broadly a process of analyzing new crop traits and determining which class of traits would be subject to regulation. APHIS has asked for public comments to “further define the scope of the alternatives and environmental impacts and issues for APHIS to consider.” ❖
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