Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Research Reveals Challenges in Genetically Engineered Crop Regulatory Process

09.05.2012
American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America Member Leads Team to Determine Delays

A new innovation can completely reshape an industry-- inspiring both optimism and debate. The development of genetically engineered (GE) crops in the 1980's ignited a buzz in the agricultural community with the potential for higher crop yields and better nutritional content, along with the reduction of herbicide and pesticide use.

GE crops grew to play a significant role in the U.S., with more than 160 million acres of farmland used to produce GE crops in 2011. However, the development of new GE crops has recently slowed to a trickle due to litigation over field testing and deregulation. University of Minnesota researchers Esther McGinnis, Alan Smith, and Mary Meyer set out to determine the cause of these litigation lulls responsible for slowing GE progress in the U.S.

Three federal agencies are responsible for regulating plant biotechnology in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees food and animal feed safety aspects of GE crops. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for crops engineered to produce pesticidal substances. Lastly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulates the planting of GE crops under the Plant Protection Act, introduced in 2000, to consolidate related responsibilities previously spread across various legislative statutes.

APHIS regulates GE crops if the donor organism, recipient organism, or vector or vector agent meets the plant pest definition or the APHIS administrator believes the organism to be a plant pest. The agency’s regulatory decisions have met much criticism in the last decade, inspiring the U of M research team to determine if and where APHIS may have gone wrong. The team used past lawsuits as case studies to determine whether APHIS failed to recognize the environmental impacts of GE crops and made legal errors in failing to comply with the sometimes strict procedures of U.S. environmental law.

After rising exponentially in the mid-1980s, the first commercially grown GE crop, the Flavr Savr tomato, was approved for sale in the U.S. in 1994. Many farmers since then, adopted GE crops as their own, excited by the prospects of scientific advancement and financial reward.

GE crop testing declined rapidly in 2003 in response to the first lawsuit. “Before that time, APHIS was dealing with a pretty heavy case load,” says McGinnis. “Their compliance with NEPA may have slipped and left them vulnerable to lawsuits.”

NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, is a U.S. national policy that was established in 1969 to promote environmental protection. NEPA requires environmental agencies to keep an in-depth administrative record of their actions that validates the agency’s rationale in reaching regulatory decisions. The lack of transparency in creating these administrative records has been a point of criticism APHIS has faced in recent years.

McGinnis and her fellow researchers also pointed out that many of the lawsuits used in their study demonstrate that APHIS failed to differentiate between traditional GE crops, such as corn, soybeans, and cotton, and new GE crops presenting considerable regulatory challenges.

Take the genetic engineering of creeping bentgrass, for example. This weedy, wind-pollinated perennial raises unique gene flow concerns that aren’t seen in more traditional herbicide-tolerant crops. APHIS has failed to distinguish novel GE crops like this one and hold them to the rigorous evaluation standards required by environmental law, which has led to lawsuits that have grounded the GE crop regulatory process to a halt.

“APHIS needs to prioritize its resources. It needs to be spending more time regulating novel crops,” says McGinnis. “I’m certainly not advocating more regulation of traditional agronomic crops. Really, it’s about focusing on these novel crops that raise more issues.”

APHIS has recently announced plans to streamline their regulatory review process of GE crops, and plans on implementing several efficiency improvements. These include executing more defined deadlines, better resource management, and earlier opportunity for public involvement.

“If APHIS can solicit public comment earlier in the regulatory process, it can more efficiently incorporate stakeholder concerns into either the environmental assessment or the environmental impact statement that it prepares in conjunction with its regulatory decision,” says McGinnis.

While APHIS says it has already begun to apply new, more efficient process steps and more defined deadlines, changes to public engagement have yet to be implemented. The agency’s complete set of revised procedures go into effect after the plans are published in the Federal Register.

The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at https://www.crops.org/publications/cs/articles/52/3/991?highlight=cT0oJTIyTWNHaW5uaXMlMjIpJnE9KGpvdXJuYWw6Y3MpJmxlbj0

xMCZzdGFydD0xJnN0ZW09ZmFsc2Umc29ydD0%3D

Crop Science is the flagship journal of the Crop Science Society of America. Original research is peer-reviewed and published in this highly cited journal. It also contains invited review and interpretation articles and perspectives that offer insight and commentary on recent advances in crop science. For more information, visit www.crops.org/publications/cs

The Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), founded in 1955, is an international scientific society comprised of 6,000+ members with its headquarters in Madison, WI. Members advance the discipline of crop science by acquiring and disseminating information about crop breeding and genetics; crop physiology; crop ecology, management, and quality; seed physiology, production, and technology; turfgrass science; forage and grazinglands; genomics, molecular genetics, and biotechnology; and biomedical and enhanced plants.

CSSA fosters the transfer of knowledge through an array of programs and services, including publications, meetings, career services, and science policy initiatives. For more information, visit www.crops.org

Teri Barr | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.crops.org
http://www.agronomy.org

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Microalgae food for honey bees
12.05.2020 | US Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service

nachricht Global trade in soy has major implications for the climate
07.05.2020 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Small Protein, Big Impact

In meningococci, the RNA-binding protein ProQ plays a major role. Together with RNA molecules, it regulates processes that are important for pathogenic properties of the bacteria.

Meningococci are bacteria that can cause life-threatening meningitis and sepsis. These pathogens use a small protein with a large impact: The RNA-binding...

Im Focus: K-State study reveals asymmetry in spin directions of galaxies

Research also suggests the early universe could have been spinning

An analysis of more than 200,000 spiral galaxies has revealed unexpected links between spin directions of galaxies, and the structure formed by these links...

Im Focus: New measurement exacerbates old problem

Two prominent X-ray emission lines of highly charged iron have puzzled astrophysicists for decades: their measured and calculated brightness ratios always disagree. This hinders good determinations of plasma temperatures and densities. New, careful high-precision measurements, together with top-level calculations now exclude all hitherto proposed explanations for this discrepancy, and thus deepen the problem.

Hot astrophysical plasmas fill the intergalactic space, and brightly shine in stellar coronae, active galactic nuclei, and supernova remnants. They contain...

Im Focus: Biotechnology: Triggered by light, a novel way to switch on an enzyme

In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".

Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...

Im Focus: New double-contrast technique picks up small tumors on MRI

Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Why developing nerve cells can take a wrong turn

04.06.2020 | Life Sciences

The broken mirror: Can parity violation in molecules finally be measured?

04.06.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Innocent and highly oxidizing

04.06.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>