APHIS extends comment period on plan to overhaul biotech regs

By Stephen Davies

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 2, 2016 - The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is allowing another 45 days for comments on its plans to overhaul its biotechnology regulations and the scope of a planned environmental impact statement.

After receiving requests from industry and environmental groups for a 60-day extension, APHIS today said it would extend the deadline for comments from March 7 to April 21.

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“We are fully committed to engaging constructively with APHIS to help the agency reach its regulatory goals and to develop a successful, broadly-supported system of regulation,” said one such request from 24 farm and food groups. The regulatory system, the request went on, should provide “risk-appropriate oversight that is consistent with the need for growers to have timely, reliable access to the products of innovative breeding techniques while at the same time not disrupting access to markets.”

The 24 groups included the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Seed Trade Association, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Grocery Manufacturers Association and National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity also asked for a 60-day extension.

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“In light of the ongoing discussion around updates to the federal Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, this effort by APHIS to assess potential environmental impacts of its process must be done carefully and in a thorough manner,” said Food & Water Watch Assistant Director Patty Lovera.

As reported last month by Agri-Pulse's Philip Brasher, APHIS' notice of intent to prepare a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement has sparked some concern in the industry. The notice “lay(s) out in broad terms a new two-step process for analyzing new crop traits and deciding which ones would be subject to regulation,” Brasher wrote.

The regulatory docket for the action is here.

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