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Farm Groups Calling for Jurisdiction over GM Animals to be Transferred to USDA

04/21/2022

Egg-NewsOn April 14th, a group of prominent associations representing both livestock and crop producers urged the USDA to rapidly develop regulations relating to the editing or modification of the genomes of domestic animals.  Genetic alteration of livestock falls under the Food and Drug Administration since with the logic of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, modified animals and fish are regarded as “animal drugs”.  The Food and Drug Administration evaluates and reviews applications at a glacial pace consistent with a lack of familiarity with the technology and a cultural bias towards delay and inaction. Unless the benefits of GM technology are realized through commercialization U.S. breeders and farmers will lose a potential competitive advantage.

 

There has been no apparent progress in developing regulations relating to gene editing despite a memorandum of understanding between the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency responsible for the FDA.

 

Egg-NewsThe House Agriculture Committee was concerned over lack of progress during the third quarter of 2021 pointing to the structural restraints inherent in the division of responsibility between two agencies that demonstrate a disinclination or lack of ability to cooperate.

 

The signatories to the letter addressed to the USDA include the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Turkey Federation, National Milk Producers’ Federation, and the American Soybean Association among others.

 

Delays inherent in the system of approval are exemplified by the decades required to finalize the application for Aquabounty genetically-engineered salmon.  With the advent of CRISPR technology it is now possible to produce gene-deleted animals that show resistance to specific diseases or to climatic extremes contributing to productivity and sustainability.

 

The logjam with respect to approval of GM modification of livestock either by gene insertion or deletion reinforces the need for an independent food safety agency that will incorporate the current responsibilities for food safety exercised by the FDA and the oversight of inspection and regulations relating to red meat and poultry falling under the USDA-FSIS.