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USDA proposal for biotech regulations falls short

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Department of Agriculture released its proposal for updated biotechnology regulations under its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and is soliciting public comments. The proposal comes as companies race to get new GMO 2.0 foods, such as those made with CRISPR and other gene-edited techniques, onto the market.

“It’s good to see that the USDA is considering regulating certain plants that are genetically engineered, via gene editing, to act like pests. However, the proposal is riddled with loopholes that could exclude most new GMO foods,” said Dana Perls, senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “For example, gene-edited canola that is genetically modified to resist herbicides might escape regulations entirely. All GMO crops, including those made with gene-editing techniques such as cisgenesis and intragenesis, should be evaluated for safety and environmental impacts.”

The proposed regulations also raises questions about the more than 35 gene edited crops that the USDA decided not to regulate, including applications such as the CRISPR mushrooms engineered to resist browning, DuPont’s CRISPR waxy corn engineered to be more resistant to drought, and Simplot’s gene-silenced RNAi potato that doesn’t rot.

“Consumers don’t want a bunch of new unregulated GMO foods secretly flooding onto the market. All GMOs – including those made with CRISPR, synthetic biology or other new genetic engineering techniques – must be regulated, safety assessed and labeled so that consumers can choose for themselves what they are eating and feeding their families,” Perls said.

Public comments on the proposed regulations are due May 19, 2017 and may be submitted to the Federal Registry.

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Expert contact: (925) 705-1074, dperls@foe.org
Communications contact: Kate Colwell, (703) 622-9093, kcolwell@foe.org

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