APHIS withdraws 2008 proposed rule related to the regulation of GM crops.

  • USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) evaluates genetically modified (GM) crops as potential plant pests under the authority of the Plant Pest Act.  On October 9, 2008, APHIS issued a proposed rule that would have expanded its authority to regulate GM crops that may not fit within the “plant pest” definition, but that may cause environmental or other types of physical harm or damage covered by the definition of “noxious weed.”  The proposal also would have substantially modified existing notification, permitting, and deregulation procedures.
  • APHIS has now withdrawn the rule, citing receipt of more than 88,300 comments expressing significant concerns about the key aspects of the proposal.  Stakeholders appear to have been particularly concerned about the lack of details surrounding the determination of which organisms would be subject to APHIS oversight, the multi-tiered permit system, and the perceived expansion of Agency authority.
  • It remains to be seen whether and how APHIS will modify its regulatory oversight of GM crops.  In light of increasing industry and consumer interest in issues related to GM foods, as well as impending federal and state developments in the area of GM labeling and claims, we doubt this issue will go dormant anytime soon.