On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order to modernize the regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology products. Many Ag industry groups are applauding the move, but what in the world does this all mean?
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President Trump’s executive order calls for regulatory streamlining on U.S. agricultural biotechnology. It directs the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collaborate on what the President calls “a common-sense framework” for developing regulations and educating consumers.
The executive order also acknowledges the fact that U.S. farmers have put the United States at the top of agricultural production in the world, yet their goods face unnecessary trade barriers in different parts of the world. It directs the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office to develop a new plan of marketing strategies aimed at increasing the acceptance of our products around the world.
The United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA) already sets standards in agricultural biotechnology and its trading. This agreement includes language on all biotechnology including genome editing. Whereas the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) only covers traditional rDNA technology. The United States, Mexico, and Canada have agreed to provisions to enhance information exchange and cooperation on agricultural biotechnology trade-related matters.
Currently, the USDA has no regulations, nor does it plan to regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques. This includes a set of new techniques that are increasingly being used by plant breeders to produce new plant varieties that are indistinguishable from those developed through traditional breeding methods. When it comes to the meat side of the issue, the FDA holds regulatory authority over gene editing in food-producing animals.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue made the following statement on the order:
“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. Science-based advances in biotechnology have great promise to enhance rural prosperity and improve the quality of life across America’s heartland and around the globe. I applaud President Trump for signing this important Executive Order that will help America’s farmers do what we aspire to do at USDA: Do Right and Feed Everyone.”
United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer also released a statement about what his office intends to do in the international marketplace.
“I welcome President Trump’s Executive Order to modernize our regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology products. 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.”
National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President David Herring says:
“Agriculture is one of the crown jewels of the U.S. economy. Today’s executive order paves the way for common sense regulation to keep America first in agriculture so that we remain the global leader in an economic sector that has offset the U.S. trade imbalance for decades and that is so critical for the prosperity of our rural communities.”
“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. We are hopeful that this executive order breaks the FDA’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.”