‘Great Concern’ About EPA Rules for Plant-Incorporated Protectants

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Regulation

More than 60 agribusiness groups have expressed “great concern” for how plant-incorporated protectants (PIPs) are going to be regulated. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a final rule for classifying PIPs, which will take effect on July 31. EPA has indicated that it will reduce costs of development, and therefore encourage increased research. However, a letter was sent to House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders highlighting issues with the regulation.

Plant-Incorporated Protectants

“The rule as finalized will suppress access to agricultural innovations greatly needed to reduce inputs, adapt to a changing climate and, respond to increased pest and disease challenges,” the letter states. “This rule will disproportionally stifle innovation by publicly supported federal and academic plant breeders and smaller plant breeding companies, inhibiting their development of new varieties, particularly of specialty and other smaller acreage crops.”

Signatories of the letter include the American Seed Trade Association, California Citrus Mutual, National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants, and Western Growers. The core of the issue is how PIPs developed through gene editing will be regulated. In the letter, the groups assert that EPAs new rule “is not risk-based, science-based and focuses on process of development rather than product.” EPA acknowledges that “PIPs are one of the safest methods to control pests.” However, the new rule makes regulatory distinctions between conventionally bred PIPs and equivalent PIPs created through gene editing from a sexually compatible plant. The coalition of ag organizations says regulating plant-incorporated protectants in that manner will stifle development and create undo hardships.

“The undersigned request that Congress direct EPA to withdraw the current rule and replace it with one that appropriately considers risk and benefits of PIPs created through gene editing from a sexually compatible plant and loss-of-function PIPs and treats them as equivalent to conventionally bred plant characteristics,” the groups note in the letter. “We stand ready to assist you in cultivating a risk-appropriate, science-based regulatory system for these vital innovations.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West