The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced proposed revisions to its regulations regarding “the movement (importation, interstate movement, and environmental release) of certain genetically modified organisms” (GMOs). The proposal, “the first comprehensive revision of the regulations since they were established in 1987,” would adjust how the agency handles permits for plants created as a result of genetic engineering (GE).

“While the current regulations have been effective in ensuring the safe introduction of GE organisms during the past 30 years, advances in genetic engineering have occurred since they were promulgated,” the announcement states. “APHIS has now accumulated three decades of experience in evaluating GE organisms for plant pest risk. The Agency’s evaluations to date have provided evidence that genetically engineering a plant with a plant pest as a vector, vector agent, or donor does not in and of itself result in a GE plant that presents a plant pest risk. Additionally, GE techniques have been developed that do not employ plant pests as donor organisms, recipient organisms, vectors, or vector agents yet may result in GE organisms that pose a plant pest risk. Given these developments, as well as legal and policy issues discussed below, it has become necessary, in our view, to update our regulations accordingly.”

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