WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)withdrewa proposed rule to revise the agency’s biotechnology regulations and will re-engage with stakeholders to determine the most effective, science-based approach for regulating the products of modern biotechnology while protecting plant health.

Sonny Perdue USDA Ag Sec
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
“It’s critical that our regulatory requirements foster public confidence and empower American agriculture while also providing industry with an efficient and transparent review process that doesn’t restrict innovation,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “To ensure we effectively balance the two, we need to take a fresh look, explore policy alternatives, and continue the dialogue with all interested stakeholders, both domestic and international.”

APHIS oversees the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of genetically engineered organisms to ensure they do not pose a plant pest risk. This important work will continue as APHIS re-engages with stakeholders.

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), and the American Soybean Association (ASA) along with many other ag organizations support the USDA’s effort to update the USDA’s biotechnology regulations.

“The USDA’s regulatory requirements must be clear, transparent, and open to stakeholder engagement,” said Chandler Goule, chief executive officer of NAWG. “Today’s actions by the agency are a step in the right direction and we are pleased to see the agency working to improve its communication with the public. It is encouraging to see that the agency is listening to ag industry stakeholders to provide an efficient and transparent review process that doesn’t restrict innovation. NAWG will be sure to continue the dialogue with the USDA to represent the innovation researchers expect to bring to wheat and the U.S. wheat grower.”

Perdue, concerned with food sustainability for the growing population, urged for a rule that is both flexible and adaptable.   

Soybean field
“Today, we need to feed some 7 billion people,” he said. “By the year 2050, that population will swell to 9.5 billion, over half of which will be living in under-developed conditions. To put the demand for food into perspective, we are going to have to double our production between now and 2050. We will have to produce more food in the next 30 years than has been produced in the last 8,000 years. Innovations in biotechnology have been helping American farmers produce food more efficiently for more than 20 years, and that framework has been essential to that productivity. We know that this technology is evolving every day, and we need regulations and policies that are flexible and adaptable to these innovations to ensure food security for the growing population.”

The NCGA applauded Perdue on his efforts to regulate biotechnology rule.

"The proposed rule had desirable elements, but the deficiencies found in key areas would have rendered the overall product unworkable for innovation and America’s farm families,” said Kevin Skunes, president of the NCGA. “On behalf of America’s corn farmers, I commend Secretary Perdue for the serious nature with which he has approached this important and sizable task. The intent he has expressed in regard to working with stakeholders is heartening, and we look forward to collaborating with him to ensure that our nation’s system regulating all agricultural technologies facilitates both the current and future needs of innovations important to families both on and off the farm.”

The ASA supported the positive message that the USDA outlined regarding certain gene-editing techniques, but the ASA noted the need to significantly revise the rest of the rule arguing that as written, it would have stifled innovation and increased the regulatory burden on the agriculture industry.

“ASA will continue to engage with the agency to promote innovation and advancements in agriculture while advocating for a science-based regulatory system for biotechnology,” the association said. 

More information about the regulation will be on theUSDA APHIS websiteas it becomes available.