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Posted on August 31, 2021 by Lisa M. Campbell
By Sheryl L. Dolan and Barbara A. Christianson
On August 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its release of a draft guide detailing the information requirements and process for submitting a Regulatory Status Review (RSR) request. Developers of certain genetically modified organisms may use the RSR process to determine the regulatory status of the organisms. The draft guide is open for public comment for 60 days. APHIS also will host a webinar to provide an overview of the draft RSR guide.
On May 18, 2020, APHIS published revised biotechnology regulations, codified in 7 C.F.R. Part 340 and referred to as the Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) rule. For a discussion of the SECURE rule, please review Final SECURE Rule Will Update and Modernize USDA's Biotechnology Regulations. The revised regulations identify high-level information requirements for submissions to support RSR requests. In response to comments on the proposed SECURE rule, APHIS stated that it would publish detailed information requirements as a draft guide for public comment prior to issuing the draft guide in final.
The draft RSR guide is available on the APHIS website, at the bottom of the tab labeled The Regulatory Status Review Process, and also in the online docket. The public may submit comments at https://www.regulations.gov/docket/APHIS-2021-0062. APHIS states that it will consider all comments received by October 25, 2021, prior to issuing the final RSR guide. Additionally, APHIS will host a technical webinar on September 21, 2021, to discuss the RSR process and guide, and provide stakeholders the opportunity to ask questions. Registration is available now on the APHIS website.
APHIS is authorized by the Plant Protection Act to evaluate potential plant pest risks resulting from certain organisms developed using genetic engineering techniques. Prior to the SECURE rule, developers of genetically modified plants could petition APHIS to seek a determination that a modified plant is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk and therefore is no longer subject to APHIS’ biotechnology regulations. With the SECURE rule, APHIS made several changes to its procedures, including introduction of the RSR process. The RSR process was implemented for select crops on April 5, 2021, and will be fully implemented for all crops on October 1, 2021.
Developers must submit a significant amount of technical information to APHIS to support a determination that a genetically modified plant can be deregulated. It typically is welcome news when regulators clarify the information that they need to make a regulatory determination, particularly given the time and resources invested in a new technology. A clear regulatory process, including information requirements and review timelines, allows industry to plan accordingly. The APHIS draft guide addresses information requirements, the review process, decision timelines, confidential business information justifications, and key definitions, and provides an optional submission template. It appears to be a useful tool in planning an RSR submission. We urge developers of genetically modified plants to review the guide carefully. If, following review, there are issues that require additional clarification, developers should highlight those issues in comments submitted to the docket linked above.
Posted on January 14, 2020 by editor
By Timothy D. Backstrom
On January 9, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) announced the launch of a new website created in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that provides information about actions the federal government is taking to oversee the development of agricultural biotechnology products. This “one-stop-shop” website was created under the direction of Executive Order (EO) “Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products.”
EPA regulates biotechnology-based pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and residues from such pesticides under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). EPA also regulates under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) certain new microorganisms that are not subject to regulation under other statutes. USDA regulates certain new biotechnology products under the Plant Protection Act (PPA), including agricultural crops that have been modified to be resistant to conventional pesticides. FDA regulates the safety of human and animal foods produced using biotechnology, including genetically modified agricultural crops and animals, and the safety of drugs and human biologics produced with biotechnology, under the FFDCA.
The website, The Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation, describes the federal review process for biotechnology products, outline’s each agency’s role in regulating biotechnology products, and allows users to submit questions to the three agencies. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler states that the new website “will help provide regulatory certainty and clarity to our nation’s farmers and producers by bringing together information on the full suite of actions the Trump Administration is taking to safely reduce unnecessary regulations and break down barriers for these biotechnology products in the marketplace.”
In recent years, a number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) have raised concerns regarding the risks from products that have been genetically modified using biotechnology, including agricultural crops that have been genetically modified to improve pesticide or disease resistance, and agricultural animals that have been genetically modified to enhance food production. In some instances, farmers have also expressed concern that crops with novel traits may exchange genetic information with other plant strains or species. Implicit in all of this criticism is a presumption that the agencies with regulatory jurisdiction over these novel organisms have not adequately prevented or mitigated the risks associated with biotechnology.
In contrast, proponents of biotechnology have complained that regulatory requirements imposed by the responsible agencies have stifled useful innovation and have requested relief from regulatory requirements that they contend have impeded or slowed introduction of new products of agricultural biotechnology. The Executive Order that underlies the new website seeks to streamline the administrative process for introducing novel agricultural products without increasing potential risks of biotechnology.
Additional information on how EPA regulates biotechnology products is available here.
Posted on October 25, 2017 by Lynn L. Bergeson
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On October 25, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and OPP, will be holding two public meetings to discuss FDA’s Agricultural Biotechnology Education and Outreach Initiative. The meetings will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 7, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (EST) and in San Francisco, California on November 14, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (PST). EPA states that this initiative, which Congress appropriated three million dollars to fund, “calls for FDA to work with EPA and USDA to provide education and outreach to the public on agricultural biotechnology and food and animal feed ingredients derived from biotechnology, and the purpose of the meetings is “to provide the public an opportunity to share information, experiences, and suggestions to help inform the development of this education and outreach initiative.” FDA issued a notice on these public meetings in the Federal Register on October 13, 2017. 82 Fed. Reg. 47750. More information on the initiative and how to register for the meetings is available on FDA’s website. Participation is available in person or by webcast.
In the notice, FDA also invites comments and responses to the following questions specifically regarding agricultural biotechnology and biotechnology-derived food products and animal feed:
- What are the specific topics, questions, or other information that consumers would find most useful, and why?
- Currently, how and from where do consumers most often receive information on this subject?
- How can FDA (in coordination with USDA) best reach consumers with science-based educational information on this subject?
Comments can be filed in Docket No. FDA-2017-N-5991 on www.regulations.gov; comments are due by November 17, 2017.