The U.S. was part of a group of eight World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries that signed on to the “International Statement on Agricultural Applications of Precision Biotechnology.”

In general, the statement argues for the importance of “precision biotechnology,” which includes gene editing, and for the need to avoid disparate and conflicting regulatory standards around the world.

The beginning of the statement read: “Agricultural innovation has played an essential role in increasing yields and productivity in support of growing prosperous civilizations. Innovations in precision biotechnology, such as gene editing, have brought the promise of major improvements in terms of the ease and precision of introducing desirable traits into agricultural organisms, as compared to other breeding methods.”

In the USDA’s official response to the move, Secretary Sonny Perdue described gene editing as holding promise for farmers globally. “These tools can play a critical role in helping farmers address many of the production challenges they face while improving the quality and nutritional value of foods available to consumers worldwide. Unfortunately, such technologies too often face regulatory roadblocks that are based on misinformation and political posturing.”

Currently, in the U.S., the USDA has deemed gene editing in plants a “traditional breeding method” that does not require additional regulatory scrutiny, whereas the Food and Drug Administration has said the gene edited DNA in food animals is a drug under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, a designation that results in considerable regulatory burden.

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