Baird, Plaskett lead letter to administration urging progress on USDA regulatory clarity for animal biotechnology
Congressman Jim Baird (IN-04), the Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Research, and Horticulture, along with the Subcommittee’s Chairwoman, Delegate Stacey Plaskett (VI-AL), led their Agriculture Committee colleagues in a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Secretary, Tom Vilsack and Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner, Janet Woodcock urging timely progress in the reform of regulatory frameworks for animal biotechnology products.
The bipartisan letter – signed by 37 members of the House Agriculture Committee, including Chairman David Scott and Ranking Member Glenn “GT” Thompson – calls on the agencies to continue cooperation and quickly move towards implementing a more efficient, science and risk-based regulatory system that will allow a path to market for these important innovations. The letter expresses support for steps already taken, such as USDA’s publishing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) for animal biotechnology regulations and calls for the agencies to build on these important steps in a timely manner.
“Innovation has been the very backbone of agriculture throughout time. In the last several decades, that innovation has begun to look different as the technology has changed, but the goal remains the same –to create the safest, and most sustainable, abundant, and stable food supply in the world,” said Congressman Baird. “The unfortunate reality though, is that our regulatory system has not kept up with this technology and has created a near-impossible challenge to get these products to market. USDA needs to take the lead in developing new, risk and science-based, regulatory pathways that encourage agricultural innovation, provide access to valuable new technologies to American livestock producers, and ensures food safety and security for consumers.”
Animal biotechnology refers to genetic altering of animals through a range potential processes, including recombinant DNA techniques, and genome editing, to improve certain traits or characteristics of these animals. These practices have the potential to develop resistance and mitigate diseases including zoonotic infections like SARS-CoV-2 and avian influenza, to reduce methane emissions, improve heat tolerance, and much more. Currently, these technologies are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration under its animal drug authority, through a process that has proven prohibitively onerous. To date, only two animals intended for agricultural purposes have ever been approved by the FDA for domestic use, both taking decades for full approval.