Ag industry seeks USDA oversight of GE animals


By Ryan McCrimmon, POLITICO

03/14/2019 10:00 AM EDT


With help from Liz Crampton


ó Could the Agriculture Department and FDA be headed for another turf war? Livestock groups, led by the pork sector, are pushing to shift regulatory authority over gene-edited animals to USDA. Itís currently handled by FDA, which the groups say is too slow-moving to keep up with South American competitors that have already approved more of the biotech beasts.


ó The fate of President Donald Trumpís signature trade achievement, the new North American trade pact, could hinge on Mexicoís willingness to follow through on commitments it made to pass legislative changes to its labor laws. The Trump administration is headed for a major clash with House Democrats, who remain skeptical of the ability to enforce labor standards in the deal.


ó A U.S.-EU trade deal that doesnít address farm goods would not fly in Congress, according to a bipartisan bloc of more than 100 House members. Itís the largest group of lawmakers yet to draw a hard line on the ag impasse between Washington and Brussels...


AG INDUSTRY SEEKING USDA OVERSIGHT OF GE ANIMALS: Livestock groups are rallying a call to move regulation of genetically engineered animals from the FDA to USDA, potentially setting up another jurisdictional face-off, our Liz Crampton reports this morning.


Currently, FDA has control over reviewing the safety of GE animals while USDA handles GE plants. But animal ag groups say FDAís framework lacks clarity and the process is a slow-go ó they point to the fact the agency has cleared just one genetically engineered animal, AquaAdvantage salmon (a process that lasted more than 20 years).


The pork industry is taking the lead in part because gene-edited hogs that are resistant to certain diseases are expected to be commercially available in the next couple of years. Farmers and scientists are particularly excited about the possibility of resistance to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, a disease that costs the industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually.


Countries taking action: Supporters of the move say itís an urgent issue because other countries have signed off on GE animals, namely Brazil and Argentina, putting U.S. producers at a competitive disadvantage.


A roadmap: Advocates were encouraged by the joint USDA-FDA agreement for handling regulation of cell-based meat, and they say the shared arrangement could provide a guide for how the biotech animals debate might play out.


In its review of biotech plants, USDA set a goal of streamlining regulations to help products to get to market faster. Animal ag groups are hopeful the department would take the same approach for GE animals.


TRUMP, DEMS ON USMCA COLLISION COURSE: House Democrats are looking for assurances that Mexico will carry out labor commitments it made in the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that require changes to Mexican law. After a caucus meeting Wednesday with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Democrats appeared inclined to wait for the Mexican government to make the necessary changes to its labor laws before the House considers a forthcoming bill to implement the new trade pact.


USMCA specifies the ratification process could be held up...