WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2015 - Grain
traders are worried that the Obama administration’s 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 don’t 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
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 Gordon’s 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 we’ve 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
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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