Trump administration proposes easing rules on genetically engineered crops

A field of corn in 2014 on Pioneer Hi-Bred International land in Waialua, Hawaii.
(Audrey McAvoy / AP)

The Trump administration would exempt many new genetically engineered crops from regulation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under a broad overhaul of biotechnology rules announced on Wednesday.

The overhaul, which the department said would cut the cost of developing genetically engineered plants, would exempt crops with traits “similar in kind” to modifications that could be produced through traditional breeding techniques. Developers would be allowed to make a “self-determination” that their products are exempt from regulation.

The administration argues the approach will allow regulators to focus on “increasingly complex products which, in turn, may pose new types of risks.”

The USDA estimates the proposal would save developers an average of $3.6 million for each new genetically engineered crop, if the product isn’t also regulated by the Food and Drug Administration or Environmental Protection Agency. If another government agency also regulates the plant, the average savings would drop to $730,000.


“This common sense approach will ultimately give farmers more choices in the field and consumers more choices at the grocery store,” Greg Ibach, under secretary of agriculture for marketing and regulatory programs, said in a statement.

The proposal replaces tougher regulations the Obama administration proposed in January 2017 but the Trump administration later withdrew. The Agriculture Department said in the new regulatory proposal that comments on the Obama regulations indicated the requirements “would be too burdensome and had the potential to stifle innovation.”

The proposal would be the first significant revision of its biotechnology regulations since they were issued in 1987, the USDA said in a statement. The proposed rule will be open for public comment through Aug. 5 before the department issues a final regulation.