USDA and FDA sign MOU on gene editing

USDA and FDA sign MOU on gene editing
Jan 25, 2021

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The memorandum of understanding outlines a plan to update regulatory framework around gene editing for agricultural purposes

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding the regulation of genetic engineering of species for agricultural purposes.

Moving forward, the USDA will build a new framework to regulate genetic engineering for all species intended for agricultural uses, while in the meantime the FDA will implement a “streamlined, risk-base approach to oversight of intentional genomic alterations in animals,” said the MOU. The FDA will retain its authority over genetic alterations intended for other purposes, and regulation of food and feed products derived from genetically engineered livestock.

Previously, USDA had authority over plants, while the FDA regulated all genetic engineering of animal species. Ag industry groups, such as the National Pork Producer’s Council (NPPC), have been lobbying to change that.

“NPPC applauds the MOU signed today between the USDA and the FDA, giving USDA primary regulatory jurisdiction over the development of gene-edited livestock,” Rachel Gantz, NPPC’s director of communications, told “NPPC has been calling for this decision for more than three years to ensure that U.S. agriculture maintains its competitive edge globally.”

The MOU “clears a path to bring our regulatory framework into the 21st century, putting American producers on a level playing field with their competitors around the world,” U.S. secretary of agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a Jan. 19 statement. “In the past, regulations stifled innovation, causing American businesses to play catch-up and cede market share.”

The NPPC agreed.

“Gene-edited technology promises to help us produce animals that are more disease-resistant, require fewer antibiotics, and have a smaller environmental footprint. Notwithstanding its significant promise, U.S. agriculture had been in a holding pattern, as USDA and the FDA were locked in a regulatory tug of war over authority on gene editing in livestock,” Gantz explained. “Meanwhile, China, Brazil, Canada and other global competitors moved ahead in the race to pursue this technology. U.S. agriculture can’t continue to be sidelined while our competitors move ahead with this critical technology.”

The organization looks forward to “working with the Biden administration to implement a technology that has the potential to improve animal health, further reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint and improve production efficiency,” she added.

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