On June 11, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to implement the Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force recommendations to modernize agricultural biotechnology regulations.
The move drew praise from the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“Having an updated, transparent and scientifically sound regulatory system for agricultural biotechnology is critical if American farmers and ranchers are to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “I applaud President Trump for his Executive Order that will foster policy to spur agricultural innovation, encourage engagement and alignment at the global level and provide a firm foundation for the future of gene edited crops and animals.”
And the American Soybean Association said the order promotes agricultural innovation.
“Soybean farmers appreciate the steps toward a more consistent, coordinated approach to the biotech regulatory system domestically and abroad,” said ASA President Davie Stephens.
Let’s take a look at the Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products Executive Order. First, how does it define agricultural biotechnology?
For the terms of this order, agricultural biotechnology refers to a plant or animal, or a product of such a plant or animal, developed through genetic engineering or through the targeted in vivo or in vitro manipulation of genetic information, with the exception of plants or animals, or the products thereof, developed for non-agricultural purposes.
What’s the federal government’s policy regarding agricultural biotechnology?
It’s the policy of the federal government to protect public health and the environment by adopting regulatory approaches that are proportionate to the risks such products pose and that avoid arbitrary or unjustifiable distinctions. The regulations should ensure public confidence and promote future innovation and competitiveness.
How is the federal government going to do that?
The executive order lays out a six-step plan.
- Base regulatory decisions on scientific and technical evidence, and take into account economic factors;
- Review regulatory applications in a timely manner;
- Ensure the transparency, predictability and consistency of product regulation;
- Develop regulations and guidance that provide fair notice to the public and allow for its participation;
- Make regulatory determinations based on risks associated with the product and its intended end use;
- Promote trade in products of agricultural biotechnology by urging trading partners to adopt science and risk-based regulatory approaches.
How is the administration going to reach out to consumers?
Within 180 days, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is to develop an action plan to facilitate engagement with consumers in order to build public confidence in, and acceptance of, the use of safe biotechnology in agriculture and the food system.
Will there be any changes for agricultural biotechnology creators?
Yes, to ensure they can easily navigate the regulatory system for products of agricultural biotechnology, USDA, the EPA and Food and Drug Administration, will, within 180 days, work together to design a plan to establish a web-based platform that contains and provides links to relevant regulatory information. This web-based platform will be funded by USDA.
Check out the entire order here.
Perdue, who will play a large role in implementing the executive order, praised the president for signing the order.
“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,” said Perdue. “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.”
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer praised the policy too.
“American farmers have made the United States an agricultural powerhouse through these safe and effective innovations,” Lighthizer said in a media statement. “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.”