Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently issued a statement providing clarification on USDA’s oversight of plants produced through new and innovative breeding techniques such as genome editing.
Under its biotechnology regulations, USDA does not regulate or have any plans to regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques, as long as they are not plant pests or developed using plant pests. This includes a set of new techniques that are increasingly being used by plant breeders to produce new plant varieties that are indistinguishable from those developed through traditional breeding methods. The newest of these methods, such as genome editing, expand traditional plant breeding tools because they can introduce new plant traits more quickly and precisely, potentially saving years or even decades in bringing needed new varieties to farmers.
“With this approach, USDA seeks to allow innovation when there is no risk present,” Perdue said. “At the same time, I want to be clear to consumers that we will not be stepping away from our regulatory responsibilities. While these crops do not require regulatory oversight, we do have an important role to play in protecting plant health by evaluating products developed using modern biotechnology. This is a role USDA has played for more than 30 years, and one I will continue to take very seriously, as we work to modernize our technology-focused regulations.”
Farm Bureau has been working closely with USDA and the administration to send the appropriate signals to plant breeders and international partners about the value and need for this innovative technology in agriculture.