On September 16, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in collaboration with the White House, released two documents that will update the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (Coordinated Framework) that was first rolled out by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in 1986 and updated in 1992. The White House states that this is “an important step to ensure public confidence in the regulatory system for biotechnology products and to improve the transparency, predictability, coordination, and, ultimately, efficiency of that system.” The documents released are:
- Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products: An Update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (Update); and
- National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products (Strategy).
The Update document is intended to help product developers and the public understand what the regulatory pathway for products might look like. The White House states that the Update document presents information about agency roles and responsibilities in several forms, including:
- Graphics that illustrate agency-specific overviews of regulatory roles;
- Case studies that demonstrate how a product developer might navigate the regulatory framework, and;
- A comprehensive table that summarizes the current responsibilities and the relevant coordination across EPA, FDA, and USDA for the regulatory oversight of an array of biotechnology product areas.
The White House is seeking public comment on this proposed Update. The comment deadline will be 40 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.
The Strategy document, which the White House states “sets forth a vision for ensuring that the Federal regulatory system is equipped to assess efficiently the risks, if any, associated with future products of biotechnology while supporting innovation, protecting health and the environment, maintaining public confidence in the regulatory process, increasing transparency and predictability, and reducing unnecessary costs and burdens,” also details many existing activities at EPA, FDA, and USDA; new activities that have been instigated by the memorandum on “Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products,” which directed EPA, FDA, and USDA to update the Coordinated Framework; and key commitments that these three agencies will keep going forward to continue the modernization process. These commitments are:
- EPA, FDA, and USDA will review existing communication tools and, as appropriate, may revise existing or develop new user-friendly sources of regulatory information for product developers and the general public.
- EPA, FDA, and USDA are emphasizing their commitments to interagency communication and collaboration in order to make timely decisions on regulatory jurisdiction for biotechnology products and to optimize the review and use of scientific data for regulatory assessments.
- EPA and FDA intend to clarify their respective approaches for oversight of products developed using genome editing techniques, including, for example, pesticidal products at EPA and genetically engineered animals at FDA.
- EPA, FDA, and USDA will continue to examine their regulatory structures with the goal of clarifying how the U.S. Federal Government will regulate genetically engineered insects in an integrated and coordinated fashion to cover the full range of potential products.
- EPA, FDA, and USDA commit to reporting annually, for at least the next five years, on specific steps that they are taking to implement the Strategy, as well as any additional actions being taken to improve the transparency, predictability, and efficiency of biotechnology regulation and the coordination among the regulatory agencies.
- EPA, FDA, and USDA will continue to provide leadership in international fora to promote scientific competency, understanding of the U.S. regulatory approach, and regulatory compatibility worldwide for biotechnology products.
- EPA, FDA, and USDA commissioned a study by the National Academy of Sciences, entitled “Future Biotechnology Products and Opportunities to Enhance Capabilities of the Biotechnology Regulatory System.” This report is still forthcoming.
On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, at 2:00 p.m. (EDT), OSTP, EPA, FDA, and USDA will be participating in a conference call on the White House’s efforts in regards to the above. More information regarding registration for the call and submitting questions is available online.
More information concerning the Coordinated Framework, the memorandum on “Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products,” and other current biotechnology issues are available in our memoranda on our website under the key phrase “Biobased Products, Biotechnology.”