February 26, 2019
US pork council calls for USDA oversight as gene editing development stalls
Development of an emerging technology promising major animal health and environmental benefits is currently stalled at the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), prompting the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) to renew its call for USDA's regulatory oversight of gene editing for livestock.
"The pace of FDA's process to develop a regulatory framework for this important innovation only reinforces our belief that the USDA is best equipped to oversee gene editing for livestock production," said Jim Heimerl, president of NPPC." US agriculture is one our nation's most successful export products; we can't afford to cede leadership of gene editing to other countries."
Gene editing accelerates genetic improvements that could be realised over long periods of time through breeding. It allows for simple changes in a pig's native genetic structure without introducing genes from another species. Emerging applications include raising pigs resistant to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, a highly contagious swine disease that causes significant animal suffering and costs pork producers worldwide billions of dollars.
Dr. Dan Kovich, NPPC's director of science and technology, was expected to advocate for USDA oversight of gene editing at an Innovations in Agriculture panel moderated by USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach during the agency's 95th Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum.
"In addition to dramatic animal health gains and reduced financial risk for farmers, gene editing's promise includes less need to use antibiotics to care for livestock and reduced environmental impact from more efficient farm operations," Dr. Kovich said.
Despite no statutory requirement, the FDA currently holds regulatory authority over gene editing in food-producing animals.
FDA oversight will treat any gene edited animal as a living animal drug - and every farm raising them at a drug manufacturing facility – undermining US agricultural competitiveness relative to other countries with more progressive gene editing regulatory policies, NPPC said.
- National Pork Producers Council