Slowly and gradually the world is moving towards embracing technology for improving the food products, be it plant-based meat, alternate sources of protein, or foods from gene-edited crops. This is also imperative to meet the ever-increasing demand for global food reserves. The USA being a global trendsetter has once again made other nations rethink and re-evaluate the regulations for biotech crops, by exempting some gene-edited plants from government oversight by itself.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations were undergoing changes since the Obama administration, though drafted rules were released during the Trump administration in January 2017, which were further withdrawn after 9 months, only to reproduce revised rules for public comments, which is now finalized.
Earlier, the companies had to seek help from Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for evaluating the risk associated with any newly introduced GM crop that they wanted to commercialize. However, now, any such approved crop shall not undergo any regulation for the introduction of a new variety.
Any company may approach APHIS in case it is not sure whether or not a new crop requires exemption. Regulators will try to find out any potential threat in comparable plants. The agency advises to conduct such evaluations every two to three months for familiar plants. As per APHIS, it’s only one percent of the plants that might not be considered fit for deregulation, once the review is conducted.
This is celebratory information for plant developers since the new process will lead to minimal regulatory cost and timeframe to develop new plant variants.
This strengthens the gene-editing process to move forward. Any plant that could be bred conventionally, if undergoes gene editing likely to be exempted from regulation, for example, maize, mushrooms, soybean, and tomatoes. However, this need not to be confused with moving a gene or rewiring metabolism, as these will need proper regulatory review.
The whole idea points towards the in charge, the USDA-APHIS support for science and technology, as expressed by insiders.