On June 11, President Donald J. Trump signed the Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products Executive Order.
The Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products Executive Order calls for, among other things, regulatory streamlining in order to facilitate the innovation of agricultural biotechnology to the market efficiently, consistently, and safely under a predictable, consistent, transparent, and science-based regulatory framework.
In response to the signing of the biotech Executive Order, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement: “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.”
The American Soybean Association (ASA) also applauds the biotech Executive Order. Kentucky soy grower and ASA President Davie Stephens said in a statement, “Soybean farmers appreciate the steps toward a more consistent, coordinated approach to the biotech regulatory system domestically and abroad.”
According to ASA, by promoting agricultural innovation and confidence in new technologies, farmers, small agribusinesses, researchers, and others have the opportunity to pursue advanced ways to grow food, fight plant pests and disease, reduce reliance on fertilizers and other resources, and respond to consumer demands to reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment, in keeping with farming’s ongoing good stewardship efforts.
In addition, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Trade Agreement addresses agricultural biotechnology. The text covers all biotechnologies, including new technologies such as genome editing. Specifically, the U.S., Mexico, and Canada have agreed to provisions to enhance information exchange and cooperation on agricultural biotechnology trade-related matters.
Together, USDA, EPA, and FDA have a Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology and regulates these products for human, animal, plant, and environmental health. For products derived from plant biotechnology, USDA’s regulations focus on protecting plant health; FDA oversees food and feed safety; and EPA regulates the sale, distribution, and testing of pesticides in order to protect human health and the environment.
In April 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order establishing the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity “to ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that impacts agriculture and rural communities.” As Secretary of Agriculture, Perdue was selected to serve as the chairman of the Task Force, which includes 22 federal agencies as well as local leaders.
The Task Force report to the President was released in January 2018, and it recognized that “on the biotechnology front, better coordination of the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food and Drug Administration regulations on genetic modification of crops and livestock is needed to reduce barriers to commercialization of safe, beneficial and improved genetically engineered entities. Our regulatory system must protect public health, welfare, safety, and our environment while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation.” The Task Force recommended that the Federal Government “continue efforts to modernize the federal regulatory system for biotechnology products,” including specific recommendations to:
- Speed the safe commercialization of novel biotechnology products;
- Improve navigability of the regulatory system for small and mid-sized innovators;
- Promote understanding of how a risk- and science-based regulatory approach effectively protects consumers; and
- Remove unjustified trade barriers and expand markets for American products.