USDA allows more time to discuss regulation of GE animals

The USDA announced an additional 60 days for public comment on a proposal that originated in the final weeks of the Trump administration to put USDA, rather than FDA, in charge of regulating livestock and poultry created through genetic engineering. The hog industry has been the leading proponent of the change of jurisdiction, saying the FDA moves too slowly.

Just before it left office, the Trump administration announced an interdepartmental memorandum for the transfer of power. It was signed by then-Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and by the assistant HHS secretary in charge of the Public Health Service. FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said his agency “has no intention of abdicating our public health mandate” over animal biotechnology. Perdue, Hahn, and Brett Giroir, the assistant HHS secretary who signed the memo, all left government when President Biden took office.

Since the dawn of agricultural biotechnology in the 1990s, the FDA has overseen GE animals and USDA has regulated GE plants. Perdue proposed USDA leadership on food-bearing GE animals in late December and said it would be part of a modernization of federal oversight of biotechnology.

The FDA has approved two GE animals for human consumption, a GMO salmon in 2015 and a pig last December that is intended for medical and food use.

The new comment period will open on Tuesday and run through May 7. The initial period expired on Feb. 26.

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