Hog finishing

Pork producers are stepping up their campaign to ease regulation of genetically engineered livestock following an executive order President Donald Trump issued earlier this month instructing federal agencies to speed up approval of new agricultural biotechnology.

The National Pork Producers Council is seeking White House intervention to reverse a Food and Drug Administration stance that genetically edited animals should be regulated like drugs and barred from entering the food chain until the modifications are shown to be safe.

The trade group wants the Department of Agriculture to be the lead oversight agency, maintaining that regulatory hurdles risk giving a competitive edge to more permissive countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Canada and China.

“We are looking for leadership from the White House to reconvene talks,” Dan Kovich, the group’s director of science and technology, told reporters June 25 on a conference call. “There are other legitimate, viable regulatory pathways.”

U.S. regulatory concerns could slow introduction of an experimental gene-editing technique to make hogs resistant to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, Kovich said.

Trump’s June 11 executive order instructs the USDA, the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency — all of which have jurisdiction over genetically engineered agricultural products — to review their biotechnology regulations to streamline the approval process.

Alison Van Eenennaam, an agricultural Extension specialist in animal biotechnology and genomics at the University of California, Davis, who participated in the call, said new gene-editing techniques don’t introduce genetic material from other organisms and produce similar risks to conventional breeding techniques, which aren’t regulated.

The Agriculture Department earlier this month proposed a broad overhaul of biotech rules that would exempt from regulation genetically edited farm products with traits “similar in kind” to modifications that could be produced through traditional breeding techniques.