WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2015 - Grain traders are worried that the Obama administrations review of U.S. biotech regulations is failing to take into account the need to coordinate the rules with Japan, South Korea and other key trading partners. Without that kind of coordination, the companies worry that there will be continued trade disruptions over biotech products.

USDA, EPA and FDA are so far keeping the review of the regulatory process more narrowly focused. The priorities, as laid out in this summer’s announcement, are to clarify agency roles, streamline the process where possible, and perhaps most importantly, decide whether and how to regulate new breeding techniques, such as genome editing and RNA interference, that dont require moving genes from one species to another.

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) believe the review ought to be expanded to ensure that the U.S. process is coordinated with foreign regulatory agencies, which could avoid future disruptions. The industry is still smarting over cases where trade has been shut down by the discovery of unapproved GMOs or even fears of trace contamination.

At the first of three public meetings the agencies are holding as part of the review, NGFA President Randy Gordon told officials that they must address the challenges of achieving regulatory coherence and compatibility in the global marketplace. Among Gordons recommendations: Use the biotech section of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to press other TPP countries to coordinate their regulations with U.S. rules. Gordon also suggested using a new under secretary position at USDA to help facilitate biotech trade.

Gordon tells Agri-Pulse that NFGA and NAEGA are concerned in particular about how foreign governments are going to treat the new breeding techniques, which are lower-cost ways for other players to get into this business. We just think weve got a chance to do it right” in this area. He suggested encouraging countries to agree on an international set of standards through, for example, the Codex process of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The agencies are taking comments on the review until Nov. 13. The Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, as the federal regulatory process is formally known, was first established in 1986 and then updated in 1992.


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