By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. pork lobby said on Tuesday that more must be done to simplify regulations for genetically altered livestock, weeks after President Donald Trump signed an executive order to streamline the review process for agricultural technology.
Trump, who was elected in 2016 with broad support from farmers, signed the order in Iowa on June 11 and said it would speed up reviews of biotechnology.
The National Pork Producers Council had hoped the order would relax how the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) regulates gene editing, a technology that could be used to alter hogs to resist disease.
The agency “inaccurately classifies livestock as drugs and farms as drug-manufacturing facilities,” the council said in a statement.
However, the FDA told the council it thinks its approach to gene editing is already in line with Trump’s executive order, Andrew Bailey, a lawyer for the pork group, told reporters on a conference call.
The FDA told Reuters it is working to implement the order and wants to avoid unnecessary barriers to innovation in plant and animal biotechnology. The agency said it does not regulate animals as drugs, but regulates intentional alterations to genomes in animals.
FDA regulation could lead to a lengthy and expensive process for researchers and companies to gain U.S. approval for gene-edited hogs, according to the National Pork Producers Council. That could put the United States at risk of falling behind suppliers like Canada, Brazil and China, the group said.
Unlike traditional genetically modified organisms, in which a gene is added from another organism, gene editing works like the find-and-replace function on a word processor. It finds a gene and then makes changes by amending or deleting it.
Scientists can edit genomes more precisely and rapidly than ever before, and altered agricultural products could get to market more quickly and cheaply.
The National Pork Producers Council wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture rather than FDA to regulate gene editing in livestock.
Hog farmers globally are battling diseases like African swine fever and Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome that can kill animals or increase the use of drugs in livestock.
Dan Kovich, deputy director of science and technology for the council, said the FDA needs “to go back to the drawing board” regarding its approach to gene editing.
Kovich said the pork lobby was working with the Trump administration “to discuss ways to move forward and frankly make sure that the FDA hears and understands our concerns.”
(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Tom Brown and Leslie Adler)