ASTA Statement on USDA’s Secure Rule

  • On May 14, 2020

ASTA Statement on USDA’s Secure Rule

Alexandria, VA—May 14, 2020–The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) greatly appreciates the efforts of Secretary Perdue and his team in working to provide clarity around USDA’s regulatory system for genetically engineered organisms – through the Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) rule. Plant breeding innovations like gene editing hold tremendous potential not just for American agriculture, but for the future of our environment and the entire food value chain. Innovation is the backbone of America.

“All of our nation’s agricultural producers deserve choice and access when it comes to the latest tools available to support the economic and environmental sustainability of their operations,” said ASTA President & CEO Andy LaVigne. “In order for America to remain a leader in innovation, and to address very-real challenges facing our agriculture and food production system—from climate change, to rapidly evolving pests and diseases—we need a science- and risk-based regulatory system that provides a clear pathway to commercialization for products that utilize the latest breeding, research and development tools.”

While ASTA is analyzing the full details of the SECURE rule, the association notes that the rule acknowledges that some applications of gene editing result in the development of plant varieties that are essentially equivalent to varieties developed through more traditional breeding methods and would thus treat these varieties in the same way from a policy standpoint. USDA also rightly recognizes the continuing evolution of the science of plant breeding and, thus, has included a mechanism for additional exemptions. A clear and transparent, science-based process for these future exemptions will be important to support continuing innovation so important to agriculture. The current COVID-19 crisis has further underscored the need for innovative solutions to address the very-real threats facing global food security and agriculture production now and in the future.

It is important that seed companies have a clear pathway to request and obtain confirmation that a product meets one of the exemptions in the final rule before the exempted plant or category of plants is placed on the market. A well-defined and efficient confirmation process will bring value in marketing of products, both in the domestic and export markets, while making information about these products available to stakeholders and the public.

“In order to foster an environment that supports continued innovation, it is critical that USDA works closely with FDA and EPA to ensure consistent, science-and risk-based policies across the U.S. Government, while continuing to take a leadership role in working towards alignment at the international level,” said LaVigne. “The seed industry continues to look to research, discovery and innovation to keep pace with the growing challenges facing today’s agriculture and food production system. We remain committed to working closely with the administration, industry and the broader plant breeding community to ensure commercial viability and widespread access by producers to the latest plant breeding tools, both here and around the globe.”


Founded in 1883, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) represents over 700 companies involved in seed production, plant breeding and related industries in North America. ASTA is the leading voice of action in all matters concerning the development, marketing and movement of seed, associated products and services throughout the world. The association’s broad membership offers varieties from alfalfa to zucchini and all production types including conventional, organic and biotech. ASTA promotes the development of better seed to produce better crops for a better quality of life.