The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) launched a new initiative called, “Keep America First in Agriculture” (KAFA). Their reasoning for this initiative is simple. NPPC says American Farmers have had the benefit of science and innovation to keep them producing some of the best products in the world. However, as we move forward into the future, our innovation is being hindered by government oversight.
The NPPC was specifically talking about gene editing in animals. Dr. Dan Kovich, Deputy Director of Science & Technology for NPPC talked about gene editing in hogs. Dr. Kovich is most excited about being able to use the technology in disease prevention.
Dr. Kovich says there hasn’t been a lot of change in how viral diseases are treated. Gene editing gives us a chance to help our livestock be resistant to these diseases. Kovich highlights advancements made in the fight against Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS).
Kovich said this kind of work is being done to create resistance to African Swine Fever (AFS) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Kovich believes if we can control the viral susceptibility, we can decrease the number of secondary illnesses which normally require antibiotics.
However, NPPC says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is impeding advancements like gene editing from being implemented in a timely fashion. FDA is claiming that gene editing should be labeled as a drug, giving FDA control over those genome edited animals and all their offspring in perpetuity. NPPC is arguing this falls under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which already regulates gene editing in plants.
While the U.S. is preventing these technologies from being used, other countries around the world are embracing them and starting to put themselves in a position to move ahead of the U.S. in terms of livestock production. FDA’s intervention has given countries like China, Canada, Argentina, and Brazil the opportunity to advance their research and implementation ahead of the United States. In fact, the NPPC says U.S. researchers are already moving their studies to these other countries because of the FDA interference.
NPPC is pushing for this jurisdiction to be placed under the USDA as gene editing isn’t a drug or prepackaged food. Those are the areas where FDA has jurisdiction in agriculture. If the FDA keeps its nose in agricultural matters, advancements in disease management will be stymied.