Nature editorial: USDA and FDA need to ‘harmonize’ gene-edited plant and animal regulations


In January [2017], two US agencies proposed the first substantial overhaul in 30 years of how they regulate genetically altered crops and livestock. Some plant scientists expressed relief. Some animal researchers used more colourful language.

The proposals — one to govern plants, the other to govern animals — came to wildly different conclusions. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that many plants whose genomes have been altered by a single DNA letter change should not need approval before being released in the field. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contends that animals whose genomes have been similarly changed might have to go through a rigorous evaluation before being released onto the market.

For the two agencies to evaluate the same problem and come to opposite conclusions is worrisome. The deadline for public comment is 19 June — researchers should seize this chance to push for a scientific and harmonized approach.

Regulating all gene-edited animals may make little sense for a change that merely reproduces a DNA sequence found in nature, or that could be recreated by using chemicals to randomly mutate DNA. Conversely, waving through many edited crops could under-regulate some with the potential to alter agricultural ecosystems. For example, a herbicide-tolerant plant could lead to changes in spraying that generate herbicide-resistant weeds.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Harmonize conflicting regulations for genetically engineered plants and animals