The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is calling on the Trump administration to roll back overly precautionary regulations to encourage innovations that produce safer and more sustainable crops and livestock, while still preventing unreasonable risks to public and environmental welfare, in a new report issued today.
“From reducing the need for pesticides to increasing crop yields, genetically modified crops have already made farming more safe and environmentally friendly,” said L. Val Giddings, a senior fellow at ITIF and the report’s author. “Researchers are discovering ever more precise, predictable, and easy-to-use techniques derived directly from nature. But despite decades of evidence on the safety of genetically improved crops, unfounded fears and politically driven opposition have led to regulations that chill innovation. It’s time to rethink these policies and allow and enable a new generation of discoveries that can feed the world even more safely and sustainably.”
Giddings explains that in the 1980s, the U.S. government decided to regulate biotech-improved crops using the same principles and methods it would for any other crops, because expert bodies repeatedly found no unique or novel hazards that made these crops and livestock any different than those derived from the classical plant and animal breeding that has occurred for millennia. But since then, Giddings says the disparity between the minimal risk associated with these innovations and the major regulatory hurdles they must clear has widened from a gap to a chasm.
This discordance between the degree of regulatory oversight and the actual hazards is posing economic and environmental costs, as innovative new products are delayed from reaching market, says Giddings. To overcome these barriers and unleash a new generation of innovation in agricultural biotechnology, the report recommends that:
- The Trump administration should enforce the mandate from the Office of Science and Technology Policy that agencies update their regulations and policies for innovative agricultural-biotechnology products, and that the revised regulations should be effective in preventing unreasonable risks while still encouraging and enabling innovation.
- The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service should set aside its proposal for process-based revisions to existing regulations.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should enforce the federal law prohibiting misleading food labels.
- The FDA should revise its current proposal for regulating gene-edited animals, withdraw its proposal for gene-edited plants, and develop new proposals to exercise its discretion in preventing unreasonable risks.
- The Environmental Protection Agency should not prematurely obstruct gene-silencing technologies.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service should immediately withdraw the prohibition on planting biotech-improved seeds on national refuge lands.
- The Trump administration should pursue efforts through the World Trade Organization to hold China and the European Union accountable for continuing to discriminate against crops improved through biotechnology, despite being obligated otherwise.
“Biotechnology innovations have improved the lives of farmers around the world, enhanced their stewardship of the land, and benefitted consumers and the environment,” concluded Giddings. “The principle obstacle to even greater and more widespread benefits is regulatory hurdles that aren’t grounded in the facts. Setting these barriers aside will unshackle innovators to solve challenges impeding our ability to meet the food, feed, and fiber needs of a growing population while reducing undesirable environmental impacts.”