The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for an overhaul of the government's regulatory system for animal biotechnology products, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization said in a letter to President Donald Trump Tuesday.

The Food and Drug Administration’s “current approach to regulating all applications of this technology as a ‘new animal drug’ should be replaced with a new model that more appropriately draws upon existing legal authorities to safeguard animal health, food safety, and the environment,” BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood said. BIO called on USDA and FDA to sign a Memorandum of Understanding within 30 days, a move endorsed by Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue in February.

Animal biotech researchers have been critical of FDA’s approach, saying it is cumbersome and hinders the development of new technology.

In its one-page letter, BIO said “COVID-19 highlights the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. While it would not have prevented the current pandemic, animal biotechnology holds enormous potential to safeguard society from future zoonotic diseases that frequently exact high economic and health costs, and to develop human therapeutics relevant to the current outbreak.”

Zoonotic diseases are those that jump from animals to humans, as is suspected in the case of the novel coronavirus. In an opinion piece posted on the Agri-Pulse website Tuesday, BIO Executive Vice President for Food and Agriculture Dana O’Brien said, “As the climate changes and populations grow and move, these zoonotic diseases will become more prevalent and potentially more dangerous.”

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