WASHINGTON — US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a proposal on Dec. 21 that would make the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) responsible for the oversight of genetically engineered agricultural animals.

Perdue said he would be moving forward with an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to ask for public input and feedback on framework for the recommended change.

“Our livestock producers need all the tools in the toolbox to help protect against animal diseases and continue to meet the challenge of feeding everyone now and into the future,” said Perdue. “If we do not put these safe biotechnology advances to work here at home, our competitors in other nations will. Science-based advances in biotechnology have great promise to continue to enhance rural prosperity and improve the quality of life across America’s heartland and around the globe.”

The agency said the new rule follows an executive order by President Donald Trump in 2019 which directed the federal government to modernize regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology products. The order directed the USDA to establish regulatory approaches proportionate to the product’s risk, avoid unjustified distinctions across similar products and promote future innovation.

Under current rules, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees gene-editing in animals while the USDA oversees gene-editing in plants.

Last week, the FDA granted approval to GalSafe pigs the first intentional genomic alternation (IGA), which were approved for human consumption and therapeutic uses.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) supported Perdue’s decision. The association said it was a leading advocate for USDA regulatory oversight the last two years when the FDA claimed jurisdiction.

“Today’s announcement is a big step forward for America’s farmers, who have weathered significant challenges over the past few years,” said Howard Roth, NPPC president. “FDA regulation of gene editing will result in an impractical, lengthy and expensive approval process. Thankfully, that is not the administration’s intended plan. This announcement represents a critical milestone to ensuring American agriculture maintains its global competitive edge.”