The U.S. Department of Agriculture has made it official: certain gene-edited crops can be cultivated and sold in markets without the need for regulation.
In a statement released Wednesday by the USDA, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said that the agency would not be regulating gene-edited crops.
According to the secretary, they will allow crops created using CRISPR as long as they “could have been developed using traditional techniques and they are not plant pests or developed using plant pests.”
The agency views gene-editing technology as a faster way of breeding. So, as long the alteration can be made in a crop, it’s free of hindering regulation. This ruling may include simple gene deletions or insertion from a compatible plant relative that could make plants more resistant to diseases or produce bigger seeds.
This is not a new development in agriculture. It is possible for these adaptations to be achieved through traditional breeding methods, but only at a much slower pace.
“With this approach, USDA seeks to allow innovation when there is no risk present,” Perdue said while also citing that they won’t be turning their backs from their responsibilities.
“At the same time, I want to be clear to consumers that we will not be stepping away from our regulatory responsibilities. While these crops do not require regulatory oversight, we do have an important role to play in protecting plant health by evaluating products developed using modern biotechnology. This is a role USDA has played for more than 30 years, and one I will continue to take very seriously, as we work to modernize our technology-focused regulations.”
Following the USDA’s official statement, Calyxt Inc., an agriculture-focused company, has announced that their gene-edited crop has been declared a non-regulated article under the so-called “Am I Regulated?” procedure of the USDA’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
Calyxt’s high fiber wheat product was produced through the company’s gene-editing technology called TALEN. The crop is currently in Phase 1 of the development process and is set to be commercially available as early as 2020.
“Calyxt’s high fiber wheat flour will have up to three times more dietary fiber than standard white flour, with enormous potential to disrupt the multi-billion-dollar industry at large,” Manoj Sahoo, Calyxt CCO, said.
Calyxt’s fiber wheat flour is just one of the many gene-edited crops that will soon hit the market free of USDA’s regulations.
“Using this science, farmers can continue to meet consumer expectations for healthful, affordable food produced in a manner that consumes fewer natural resources. This new innovation will help farmers do what we aspire to do at USDA: do right and feed everyone,” Purdue further said.