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NGFA Urges USDA to Drop Proposed Biotech Regulatory Changes

Would eliminate the notification process in favor of an affirmative permitting scheme

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), in a joint statement submitted recently with four other agribusiness associations representing the grain and oilseed value chain, urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to withdraw its proposed regulations governing the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms.

APHIS requested comments on its proposed so-called "Part 340" regulatory revisions, which among other things would eliminate the notification process for certain genetically engineered organisms in favor of an affirmative permitting scheme.

The NGFA, Corn Refiners Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, North American Export Grain Association and North American Millers' Association said the APHIS proposal was "premature" since governmental authorities in important U.S. export markets have not been consulted adequately yet nor signaled acceptance of the agency's proposed new regulatory approach. A failure to obtain such acceptance could result in significant disruptions in trade of U.S. agricultural commodities and processed products, the NGFA and the other groups warned. They urged the agency to withdraw the proposed changes and instead turn its focus to engaging with international governments to build a better understanding and acceptance of the reasons the agency is seeking to modify its regulatory oversight.

"Above all else, APHIS needs to 'do no harm' by avoiding prematurely implementing a regulatory approach under its Part 340 rules with respect to advancements in genetic engineering technology that puts U.S. grain and agri-bulk exports at risk," the NGFA and the other organizations said. "APHIS should not be working at cross-purposes to undercut the administration's focus on trade and exports."

The NGFA and the same grain- and oilseed-based agribusiness organizations also submitted a joint statement in response to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) request for comments on the use of genome-editing techniques to produce new plant varieties intended for use in human and/or animal food.

The organizations recommended that FDA require notification from plant breeders that develop and intend to commercialize plant genome-editing techniques. This would enable the agency to be informed about the kinds of traits being developed so it can determine whether to advise seed developers to consult with the agency on any food safety or labeling-related issues prior to commercialization of such gene-edited crops.

"In the absence of a notification requirement, FDA's awareness about the presence of foods developed through various plant-breeding techniques in other countries or regions of the world would be limited severely," the statement said.

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