Reps. Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.) and Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.) led a letter signed by 65 members of the House of Representatives to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warning the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take all factors – including potential market and regulatory uncertainty and trade disruptions – into account when considering a proposed pre-market biotechnology regulatory framework called “Part 340.” They wrote to USDA regarding the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) notice of intent (NOI) to revise pre-market biotech regulations, which was published in the Federal Register on Feb. 5, 2016.
“As proponents of agricultural innovation, we feel strongly that government policies and regulations should consistently promote scientific advancement in food and agricultural production,” the House members wrote. “Science is helping - and will continue to help - farmers and other food producers feed a rapidly growing global population in the face of increasing weather, pest, disease and environmental challenges.
“We are encouraged that APHIS is seeking to use its existing regulatory authority to exempt classes of biotechnology products the agency knows do not present a risk to agriculture, the environment or consumers," the lawmakers continued. "However, we are concerned that APHIS’s proposals have created tremendous uncertainty as to what breeding processes and which categories of products will receive pre-market regulatory scrutiny and to what degree. In addition, we are concerned that a lack of dialogue between our government and our major trading partners could lead to trade disruptions in significant export markets.”
They warned, “This kind of regulatory ambiguity has the potential to stifle the commercialization of new plant breeding innovation that is particularly valuable to specialty crop producers. Congress has invested significant resources in researching pest and disease challenges within the specialty crop sector. ... We appreciate your attention to our views and look forward to staying in close contact with the department as APHIS collects public comments on the NOI and makes decisions related to this sweeping regulatory revision.”