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FDA cool to USDA push to regulate GE livestock

Commissioner Stephen Hahn cited the FDA’s role in approving a genetically modified pig for food and biomedical use — “a tremendous milestone for scientific innovation” — at the same time that his agency has been coolly neutral on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s proposal to have the USDA take over regulation of GE livestock. The FDA responded by saying it was “aware” of Perdue’s proposal and that the public comment period, ending on February 26, would help determine if the idea is “appropriate to protect human health and whether there are any statutory constraints that need to be considered.”

Behind the scenes, reported Politico, Hahn told superiors at the Department of Health and Human Services this week that he would refuse to sign papers to transfer jurisdiction over GE animals to the USDA “amid concerns over its legality and the potential health repercussions of relaxing oversight” of genetically altered products. HHS told Politico that discussions over GE animals were ongoing and included both the White House and the USDA.

On Monday, Hahn mentioned the approval of the so-called GalSafe pig during a review of the 2020 accomplishments of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, a wing of the FDA. The CVM “made history with the approval of the first animal biotechnology product for both food and biomedical use,” he said on social media.

The hog industry has pushed for two years to have the USDA put in charge of GE food animals. Perdue said last month that if the United States did not “put these safe biotechnology advances to work here at home, our competitors in other nations will.” A quarter of U.S. pork is exported.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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