US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently issued a statement providing clarification on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) oversight of plants produced through innovative new breeding techniques which include techniques called genome editing.
Under its biotechnology regulations, USDA does not regulate or have any plans to regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques as long as they are not plant pests or developed using plant pests.
This includes a set of new techniques that are increasingly being used by plant breeders to produce new plant varieties that are indistinguishable from those developed through traditional breeding methods. The newest of these methods, such as genome editing, expand traditional plant breeding tools because they can introduce new plant traits more quickly and precisely, potentially saving years or even decades in bringing needed new varieties to farmers. This can include plant varieties with the following changes:
Deletions—the change to the plant is solely a genetic deletion of any size. Single base pair substitutions—the change to the plant is a single base pair substitution.
Insertions from compatible plant relatives—the change to the plant solely introduces nucleic acid sequences from a compatible relative that could otherwise cross with the recipient organism and produce viable progeny through traditional breeding.
Complete Null Segregants—off-spring of a genetically engineered plant that does not retain the change of its parent.
USDA will continue working with other Executive Branch Departments, our domestic stakeholders, trading partners and international organisations to advance this science-based and practical approach that protects plant health while allowing for technological advancements in accordance with the Report of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity
“With this approach, USDA seeks to allow innovation when there is no risk present,” said Secretary Perdue. “At the same time, I want to be clear to consumers that we will not be stepping away from our regulatory responsibilities.
“While these crops do not require regulatory oversight, we do have an important role to play in protecting plant health by evaluating products developed using modern biotechnology.
“This is a role USDA has played for more than 30 years, and one I will continue to take very seriously, as we work to modernise our technology-focused regulations.”