The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced June 5 the availability of a proposed rule titled “Movement of Certain Genetically Engineered Organisms.” In preparing this proposal, we were guided by the following principles: Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient, or SECURE for short. The SECURE rule will modernize the Department’s biotechnology regulations with a balanced approach that continues to protect plant health while allowing agricultural innovation to thrive.
“As the name SECURE implies, this proposed rule incorporates the need for efficient and sustainable agricultural production to help feed and clothe the world combined with responsible and predictable regulatory oversight to safeguard America’s ecology and plant health,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach.
SECURE would mark the first significant revision of USDA’s biotechnology regulations since they were established in 1987. For several years, USDA has worked to engage stakeholders about potential changes to these regulations, with the goal of fostering public confidence while providing industry with an efficient and transparent review process that doesn’t restrict innovation.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) oversees the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of genetically engineered organisms to ensure they do not pose a plant pest risk. SECURE is designed to have sufficient regulatory flexibility for advances in genetic engineering and our understanding of the plant pest risk posed by them. SECURE also incorporates certain provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill and recommendations from the 2015 USDA Office of Inspector General report on GE organisms.
“SECURE would enable APHIS to evaluate GE organisms for plant pest risk with greater precision than the current rule allows, ensuring oversight and risk are based on the best available science,” said Ibach. “This common sense approach will ultimately give farmers more choices in the field and consumers more choices at the grocery store.”
USDA’s proposed rule will be available for public review and comments will be accepted for 60 days beginning June 6, 2019, through August 5, 2019. After the public comment period closes, we will decide next steps based on our evaluation of public comments. Additionally, USDA plans to publish a draft programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) soon, and we look forward to stakeholder input on that document.