At least five other nations are moving toward gene editing of hogs, which could put them miles ahead of the United States in producing disease-resistant and faster-growing hogs that cost less to grow, said a group speaking for American hog farmers on Thursday.
Commissioner Stephen Hahn cited the FDA's role in approving a genetically modified pig for food and biomedical use — "a tremendous milestone for scientific innovation" — at the same time that his agency has been coolly neutral on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's proposal to have the USDA take over regulation of GE livestock.
In a move celebrated by the hog industry, the Trump administration proposed on Monday to put the USDA in charge of regulating genetically engineered livestock and poultry, a duty now performed by the FDA. The Biden administration would make the final decision on the transfer of power since it will take office before the end of the 60-day comment period on the proposal.
Gene editing has enormous potential to improve health and food production, but innovation must be governed by well-rooted standards of safety and effectiveness, said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. "The agency is a trusted global regulator and we are committed to overseeing this space in a manner that fosters innovation, protects consumer confidence and protects the public health."
An estimated 40 companies worldwide are in the race to bring to market cell-based meat — "clean meat" in the eyes of proponents and "fake meat" according to ranchers. Asked if the product qualifies as meat, Deputy Agriculture Undersecretary Mindy Brashears responded, "This is something we will be talking about. That is an important priority for us."
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $145 billion USDA-FDA funding bill on Thursday that would extend a ban on the sale of genetically modified salmon until the FDA requires special labels on the fish.
Environmental and consumer groups made good on their pledge, issued last Nov. 19, to challenge in court the FDA's approval of the sale and consumption of the genetically engineered salmon developed by AquaBounty Technologies.
"Transplanted heart valves routinely come from pigs as well as cows," says the Los Angeles Times, but it's not as simple to use swine organs for people who need kidneys, livers or lungs.
In an editorial, the New York Times says, "Congress should overturn" the FDA decision against special labels on the genetically engineered AquAdvantage salmon, the first GE food animal cleared for human consumption. "Consumers deserve to know what they are eating."