Feed industry: US biotech policy review needs to focus on international trade

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US feed organizations and grower groups are calling for additional efforts to improve international regulatory communication and approval processes in an ongoing review of national biotechnology regulation.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been reviewing this area, and a consultation period on proposed changes closed earlier in the month.

Members of several feed organizations including the National Grain and Feed Organization (NGFA), the Corn Refiners Association, the National Oilseed Processors Association, the North American Export Grain Association and North American Millers’ Association sent a joint response to the FDA on the draft. The American Soybean Association (ASA) weighed in separately on the matter.

“The ability to market grain is critical to our economy as is the preserving of the fungible, commingled grain supply,” a spokeperson for the NGFA told FeedNavigator. “Both the former and the latter are better protected when our government pursues a suite of policies that accommodate trade.”

Trade disruption fears

The NGFA was hoping to see a focus on international regulatory coherence and recognition of comparable science-based systems utilized by the US and other countries to approve biotech traits included in the coordinated framework.

And the other groups reviewing the proposed biotech regulatory amendments, supported portions of the project, but also said that more should be done to address the role of the international market in biotech crop and feed production.

“Our assumption is that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy wanted to confine the updated coordinated framework to merely trying to better explain the existing roles and responsibilities of the three principal agencies (EPA, FDA and USDA) in regulating biotech crops,” said the NGFA. “However, if the goal is truly to increase predictability and efficiency, any strategy that fails to consider the impacts of marketability and trade-disruption when it comes to regulating biotech-enhanced traits is, unfortunately, incomplete.”

The task is made more necessary as new technologies are used to develop plant varieties, the NGFA said. New plant strains or the use of other technology cannot be produced until there is a market.

“Reaching international alignment will be particularly important given the advent of new and more accessible plant-breeding innovation techniques that offer tremendous promise for more precise genetic breeding within the same genus in the not-too-distant future, but which will cause further complications to trade if the current lack of international alignment persists,” said the NGFA.

Additionally, the US needs to develop a policy regarding low-level presence of genetically engineered ingredients in feed, argued the various organizations involved.

“To create a truly workable biotech regulatory framework for the future, we believe both the coordinated framework and national strategy must more adequately address the challenge of achieving regulatory coherence and compatibility in the global market,” they said. “This includes the development of a US regulatory policy for the low-level presence (LLP) of genetically engineered products in food, feed and seeds, as well as consideration of compatibility with implicated US laws.”

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