USDA Proposed Plant Breeding Rule Welcomed

Kelly Marshall

The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) has been actively engaged with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in developing a rule regarding plant breeding innovation. The rule-making notice was officially released yesterday, and ASTA, along with other organizations like the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), are pleased with the recognition of plant breeder’s history of safety and quality.

“The farm and food value chain is committed to innovating in a responsible and sustainable way,” said ASTA President & CEO Andy LaVigne. “We look forward to continuing these conversations with the Trump Administration to ensure sound policy that fosters continued innovation and promotes the movement of seed and other agricultural products around world.”

“Corn farmers have a strong interest in the availability of new technologies to enhance the sustainability, productivity and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture,” writes the NCGA. “Agriculture biotechnology and next generation breeding techniques allow growers to increase yields while decreasing inputs. Meeting demand, improving processes and minimizing environmental impacts are what make modern corn production a dynamic industry. The documents published indicate that, in large part, federal agencies agree with the basis of our stance and strive to create a more efficient regulatory process allowing growers greater access to new products.”

All foods derived from plants are regulated in the U.S. by the FDA, and seeds are comprehensively regulated by USDA. In tandem with USDA’s proposal, FDA has announced plans to solicit comments on new plant varieties developed through gene editing techniques. Consistent with its 1992 policy, FDA acknowledges in its Request for Information that some applications of gene editing result in plants that could be developed through more traditional breeding methods. ASTA encourages FDA to closely coordinate its activities with USDA to ensure a consistent, clear and science-based policy approach across the U.S. government. It’s also critical that both agencies actively engage with our trading partners around the world as the rulemaking process moves forward.

“Continued innovation is paramount to the future of agriculture, and to our quality of life,” said LaVigne. “As an industry, we are committed to providing farmers with a wide variety of seed choices to address local challenges like changing weather, plant disease and pests, and the wise use of crop inputs and natural resources — to provide consumers with a wide variety of nutritious food choices that are safe and healthy for the families and for the environment. Thanks to the continued evolution of plant breeding, our industry is helping to meet these needs more efficiently and sustainably than ever before.”

ASTA, Gene Editing, NCGA