Policy ForumBiotech Regulation

Community-led governance for gene-edited crops

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Science  20 Nov 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6519, pp. 916-918
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd1512

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Summary

In August 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began implementing new regulations for genetically engineered (GE) organisms, the SECURE (sustainable, ecological, consistent, uniform, responsible, efficient) rule (1). SECURE marks the first comprehensive reform of U.S. genetically modified (GM) crop oversight since the agency's initial approach in 1987 (and after several unsuccessful attempts to update its regulations over the past two decades) [see (1) for definitions of GE and GM crops]. The USDA estimates that under this substantial departure from its prior approach, 99% of GM plants will be exempt from premarket field testing and data-based risk assessment requirements (2). This rule has potential implications for international trade as the European Union (EU) is taking a more stringent approach to regulating gene-edited crops and will track them in the marketplace (3). We are also concerned that developers of gene-edited and GM (i.e., biotech) crops, who largely support the SECURE approach (4), are reconstituting the same conditions that led to public rejection and mistrust of the first generation of GM foods (3). To earn greater public trust and transparency, as well as enhance the ability to track gene-edited plants entering the marketplace, we therefore propose a “community-led and responsible governance” (CLEAR-GOV) coalition and certification process for biotech crop developers based on transparent information sharing about current and anticipated market uses of biotech crop varieties.

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