ASTA Welcomes Direction of Plant Breeding Policy from USDA

  • On January 18, 2017

Alexandria, Va.—January 18, 2017—USDA today released for pre-publication a proposed rule-making notice related to plant breeding innovation. The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) has been actively engaged in discussions with the agency throughout the rule-making process, and is pleased that the proposal recognizes plant breeders’ long track record of safety and quality.

“The farm and food value chain is committed to innovating in a responsible and sustainable way,” said ASTA President & CEO Andy LaVigne. “We look forward to continuing these conversations with the Trump Administration to ensure sound policy that fosters continued innovation and promotes the movement of seed and other agricultural products around world.”

ASTA’s overarching policy is that plant varieties developed through the latest breeding methods should not be differentially regulated if they are similar to or indistinguishable from varieties that could have been produced through earlier breeding methods.

“We’re pleased that USDA’s proposal recognizes that some applications of gene editing result in plant varieties that are essentially equivalent to varieties developed through more traditional breeding methods, and treats these varieties accordingly,” said LaVigne. “While we’re still reviewing the proposal in detail, this approach will help ensure that U.S. agriculture remains at the forefront of innovation and maintains its leadership role globally.”

All foods derived from plants are regulated in the U.S. by the FDA, and seeds are comprehensively regulated by USDA. In tandem with USDA’s proposal, FDA has announced plans to solicit comments on new plant varieties developed through gene editing techniques. Consistent with its 1992 policy, FDA acknowledges in its Request for Information that some applications of gene editing result in plants that could be developed through more traditional breeding methods. ASTA encourages FDA to closely coordinate its activities with USDA to ensure a consistent, clear and science-based policy approach across the U.S. government. It’s also critical that both agencies actively engage with our trading partners around the world as the rulemaking process moves forward.

“Continued innovation is paramount to the future of agriculture, and to our quality of life,” said LaVigne. “As an industry, we are committed to providing farmers with a wide variety of seed choices to address local challenges like changing weather, plant disease and pests, and the wise use of crop inputs and natural resources — to provide consumers with a wide variety of nutritious food choices that are safe and healthy for the families and for the environment. Thanks to the continued evolution of plant breeding, our industry is helping to meet these needs more efficiently and sustainably than ever before.”