Imports of Genetically Engineered Organisms

The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is proposing to revise its regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms. APHIS believes its new framework would facilitate the development of new and novel GEOs that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks and help foster safe and predictable agricultural trade worldwide. Comments on this proposal are due no later than Aug. 5.

APHIS states that under the proposed approach regulatory efforts would focus on the properties of the GEO itself rather than on the method used to produce it. GEOs determined to pose a plant pest risk would fall within the scope of the proposed regulations and require permits for importation and other movement.

The proposed rule would provide developers of novel GE plants that have not been previously evaluated by APHIS the option of either requesting a review to determine regulatory status or applying for a permit for movement. Approval of a permit would allow the immediate import, interstate movement, or field testing of the covered plant under APHIS-imposed conditions and oversight. If a regulatory status review is requested and APHIS finds that the plant-trait-mechanism of action combination is not likely to pose a plant pest risk and therefore is not subject to the regulations, the developer could proceed with product development and marketing activities free from regulation.

Streamlined Plant Imports

APHIS has reopened until June 24 the period for public comments on a proposed regulatory change that would make the process for approving imports of plants in approved growing media simpler and more efficient. APHIS states that while it currently prepares unique environmental assessments for each request for such imports, the pest mitigation measures it proposes for most requests are very similar. APHIS has therefore prepared a draft programmatic EA that would reduce the need for repetitive documentation of comparable risks for the majority of the import requests it receives.

Under APHIS’ preferred alternative in the draft EA, requests for importation would be analyzed in a pest risk analysis and compared to the current systems approach in the USDA Plants for Planting Manual. This process would streamline import approvals by relying on the known combination of pest mitigation measures to provide overlapping or sequential safeguards to manage a wide range of pests. While the systems approach and pest surveillance practices would apply to all importations, the detection of quarantine pests would preclude further importation of the affected plant from the affected country until revised phytosanitary practices are shown to be effective.

Trade Advisory Committees

The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service intends to renew the charters for the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee and the related agricultural technical advisory committees for trade, which cover animals and animal products; fruits and vegetables; grains, feed, oilseeds, and planting seeds; processed foods; sweeteners and sweetener products; and tobacco, cotton, and peanuts. These committees provide detailed policy and technical advice, information, and recommendations regarding trade barriers, negotiation of trade agreements, and implementation of existing trade agreements affecting food and agricultural products.

FAS will accept nominations for membership on these committees throughout their four-year charter term (June 2019 through June 2023) and new applicants will be considered approximately every 12-18 months.

Pork from Mongolia

APHIS has added Mongolia to the list of regions considered to be affected with African swine fever, effective Jan. 10, 2019. APHIS states that although the importation of most swine commodities from Mongolia is already restricted based on that country’s classical swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease, and swine vesicular disease status, it is necessary to impose ASF-related restrictions on the importation of pork and pork products from Mongolia as well.

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