WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. —The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published several documents related to the pre-market regulatory oversight of genetically engineered plants and plants and animals derived from certain newer precision breeding techniques, commonly known as genome editing.

In response to the proposals regarding the U.S. government's pre-market regulatory oversight of genetically engineered plants, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) emphasized the importance of working to achieve consistent regulatory policies globally for products of the latest plant breeding methods to avoid costly disruptions in international trade.

The NGFA said given the global nature of agriculture and the importance of trade to the economic well-being of farmers, ranchers and the nation as a whole, consistent regulatory policies among governments for products of the latest plant breeding methods, such as gene editing, are needed so that trade in U.S. commodities, research collaborations and global seed movement are not hindered or disrupted.

"It is critical that the U.S. government actively engage with our trading partners around the world, and secure alignment in regulatory approaches with U.S. trading partners before these regulations are finalized and take effect," the NGFA said.

USDA's proposal recognizes that some applications of gene editing result in plant varieties that are essentially equivalent to varieties developed through more traditional breeding methods, and proposes to exclude such traits from pre-market regulatory review.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) said it is pleased that the USDA and the FDA have included input given by the NCGA and others throughout the rule-making process while focusing on the importance of science-based regulations.

Corn farmers have a strong interest in the availability of new technologies to enhance the sustainability, productivity and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture. Agriculture biotechnology and next generation breeding techniques allow growers to increase yields while decreasing inputs, the NCGA said. Meeting demand, improving processes and minimizing environmental impacts are what make modern corn production a dynamic industry. The documents published indicate that, in large part, federal agencies agree with the basis of our stance and strive to create a more efficient regulatory process allowing growers greater access to new products, the NCGA said.

The NGFA also noted that consumer education about the safety of these products should be a top priority. 

"It will be imperative that the U.S. government and the seed industry, technology providers and the value chain explain the scientific basis and rationale for this regulatory approach to consumers to facilitate understanding and acceptance of these technologies and their commercial application in the marketplace," the NGFA said.