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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on October 21, 2022, that it recently reviewed a corn plant and a potato plant that were modified using genetic engineering to determine whether they present an increased pest risk as compared to unmodified plants. APHIS has posted its Regulatory Status Review (RSR) responses on its website, as required under 7 C.F.R. Part 340. According to APHIS, the corn plant, from Infinite Enzymes, Inc., was modified to produce the enzyme manganese peroxidase in corn seed and to make it resistant to the herbicide glufosinate. The potato plant, from J.R. Simplot Company, was modified to make it resistant to potato late blight and potato virus Y and to alter the potato tuber’s sugar profile and quality.
 
According to APHIS, in both cases, it “found these plants unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk compared to other cultivated corn and potato plants.” As a result, they are not subject to regulation under 7 C.F.R. Part 340. From a plant pest risk perspective, these plants may be safely grown and used in breeding in the United States. APHIS notes that its responses are based on information from the developers and its own:

  • Familiarity with plant varieties;
  • Knowledge of the traits; and
  • Understanding of the modifications.

Under 7 C.F.R. Part 340, developers may request an RSR when they believe a modified plant is not subject to regulation. APHIS reviews the modified plant and considers whether it might pose an increased plant pest risk compared to a nonregulated plant. If its review finds a plant is unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk relative to the comparator plant, APHIS issues a response indicating the plant is not subject to the regulations.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On September 7, 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it reviewed a new tomato from Norfolk Plant Sciences. The tomato was modified to alter its color and enhance its nutritional quality. APHIS found the plant is unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk compared to other cultivated tomatoes and is not subject to regulation under 7 C.F.R. Part 340. That means, from a plant pest risk perspective, the plant may be safely grown and used in breeding in the United States.
 
APHIS announced on September 30, 2022, that it reviewed a modified corn plant from Agrivida, Inc. The corn was modified using genetic engineering to alter animal feed quality for improved digestion. APHIS also reviewed a modified potato from Toolgen, Inc. This potato was modified using genetic engineering to alter tuber quality by reducing browning. APHIS states that it found these plants are unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk compared to other cultivated corn and potato and, thus, they are not subject to regulation under 7 C.F.R. Part 340.
 
APHIS’s Regulatory Status Review (RSR) responses under the revised biotechnology regulations at 7 C.F.R. Part 340 are available online. In each case, APHIS based its responses on information from the developers and its:

  • Familiarity with plant varieties;
  • Knowledge of the traits; and
  • Understanding of the modifications.

Under 7 C.F.R. Part 340, developers may submit a request to APHIS for an RSR when they believe a modified plant is not subject to regulation. APHIS reviews the modified plant and considers whether it might pose an increased plant pest risk compared to a nonregulated plant. If APHIS’s review finds a plant is unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk relative to the comparator plant, it will issue a response indicating the plant is not subject to the regulations.

Tags: APHIS, USDA, GE

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) will hold its annual Stakeholder Meeting on December 8, 2022. BRS will offer in-person, at the USDA Center at Riverside, 4700 River Road, Riverdale, Maryland 20737, and virtual options for attendance. Attendees will hear updates about BRS’s implementation of the revised biotechnology regulations, including the new Regulatory Status Review and Confirmation Request processes, and other 2022 activities.
 
BRS seeks feedback on discussion topics for the meeting. Comments or suggestions on potential topics of interest are due October 14, 2022, to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). BRS will send out further meeting details and registration information. BRS states that stakeholders should check the BRS website for future meeting updates.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On September 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the availability of two new resources to answer stakeholder questions regarding the revised biotechnology regulations under 7 C.F.R. Part 340:

These resources, along with other information on the revised biotechnology regulations, are available on the APHIS website. For additional questions regarding the regulation of modified microorganisms, contact APHIS at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For questions regarding confirmation requests, contact APHIS at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued the much-anticipated final Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) rule. 85 Fed. Reg. 29790. The rule is intended to update and modernize USDA’s biotechnology regulations under the Plant Protection Act. The final rule amends the regulations regarding the movement (importation, interstate movement, and environmental release) of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms in response to advances in genetic engineering and APHIS’s understanding of the plant pest risk posed by GE organisms, thereby reducing the regulatory burden for developers of organisms that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks. For more information, please read the full memorandum here.

Tags: USDA, APHIS, SECURE, GE

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a proposed rule on June 6, 2019, on the movement of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms.  84 Fed. Reg. 26514.  The proposed rule would revise the regulations regarding the movement, including the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain GE organisms in response to advances in genetic engineering and APHIS’ understanding of the plant pest risk posed by them, “thereby reducing regulatory burden for developers of organisms that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks.”  APHIS notes that the proposed rule “would mark the first comprehensive revision of the regulations since they were established in 1987.”  It would provide “a clear, predictable, and efficient regulatory pathway for innovators, facilitating the development of new and novel [GE] organisms that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks.”  Comments on the proposed rule are due by August 5, 2019. For further details, see the Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C) memorandum here.

Tags: USDA, APHIS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 12, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the reopening of the public review and comment period for the draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) and the preliminary Pest Risk Assessment (PRA). These two documents have been prepared in response to a permit application from a company requesting the environmental release of genetically engineered (GE) Citrus tristeza virus (CTV). The reopening of comments is the result of a new research paper released after the initial comment period back in the summer of 2018. The research paper examines the movement of CTV, which could raise questions regarding the transmissibility of GE CTV. Updates to the dEIS and PRA have been made according to the new information obtained. While the dEIS evaluated the environmental impacts that could result from approving the permit application, the preliminary PRA analyzes the GE plant virus as a biological control measure and its potential to pose a risk to plant health. In its announcement, USDA APHIS clearly states that applying GE CTV does not mean that the trees are themselves GE. The permit application requests the approval for the use of GE CTV as a biological control agent that would help manage citrus greening disease. Instead, a gene from spinach is delivered to the tree’s circulatory system. Comments must be submitted on or prior to April 30, 2019.

Tags: USDA, APHIS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 3, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced a request for comments on two documents related to the potential deregulation of a canola variety genetically engineered (GE) to convert oleic acid to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaeonic acid (EPA), as well as for resistance to an imidazolinone herbicide. The documents are a draft Environmental Assessment (dEA) and a draft Plant Pest Risk Assessment (dPPRA). While the dEA analyzes potential issues and environmental impacts, the dPPRA examines any plant pest risks. DHA and EPA are omega-3 fatty acids that support brain development and protect neurological function. The aforementioned GE canola accumulates higher concentrations of these fatty acids. Therefore, in a petition submitted by BASF Corporation (BASF), it stated that this canola provides a plant-based and scalable production system for omega 3-fatty acids that can be another source of EPA and DHA for consumers either as a food ingredient or as an aquaculture feed ingredient. Based on BASF’s statement and the draft documents, USDA will be accepting comments until May 6, 2019. APHIS intends to thoroughly review and consider the information provided in the completion of the final environmental documents and regulatory determinations.

Tags: USDA, APHIS, GE

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 19, 2019, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) announced the delay of the spring release for BRS’ updated permitting system in APHIS eFile.  The release is now expected to occur in mid-summer 2019, with periodic updates provided by APHIS BRS as the anticipated release approaches.  In its announcement, APHIS BRS highlighted its commitment to bringing a permitting system that takes advantage of USDA’s current capabilities and brings new features previously not available.

Tags: USDA, APHIS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) signaled on June 29, 2018, its intent to prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) in connection with potential changes to the regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered [(GE)] organisms.”  The EIS will have a significant impact on how APHIS chooses to amend its regulation of GE organisms.  APHIS requested comment on issues to be considered in preparing the EIS, as well as how to define the scope of the alternatives and environmental impacts.  Comments are due July 30, 2018.
 
Our full memorandum provides some background, context, and a commentary regarding APHIS’ announcement.  

Tags: USDA, APHIS, GE

 
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