Agricultural biotechnology holds enormous promise for improving the productivity and environmental sustainability of food and fiber production. In order to secure that bright future, the Clinton Administration is taking steps today to further our long-standing goal of sound science regulation and improved access to information. These steps are intended to build consumer confidence, ensure that regulations keep pace with the latest scientific and market developments and provide that voluntary product claims, such as labels, relating to biotechnology are truthful and not misleading.
The Federal Government Has a Strong Regulatory System for Agricultural Biotechnology, a Sector That Holds Enormous Economic and Environmental Promise. The U.S. regulatory approach to agricultural biotechnology applies principles of sound science to ensure that there are no unacceptable human health and environmental risks associated with the use of these crops and that they are safe to enter into commerce. This system, encompassing the food safety and environmental regulations of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency, has resulted in rigorous scientific review of products, while providing a predictable regulatory environment that fosters scientific advancement and product innovation.
The Administration's Actions Today Will Strengthen our Science-Based Regulatory System and Facilitate Reliable, Voluntary Labeling Practices. The Administration's actions today will ensure that science remains the cornerstone of our nation's regulatory system --- keeping up with recent advances in genetics, ecology, and health --- and that federal oversight of these products remains strong. In addition, they will facilitate voluntary efforts by producers to differentiate non-bioengineered commodities through the development of accurate and reliable testing and quality assurance procedures and through guidance for the content of product labels.
THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES STEPS TO:
Reinforce the Strength & Transparency of Science-Based Regulation
Enhance Information for Consumers and Farmers
These Initiatives Reaffirm our Science-Based Regulatory Approach and Improve Public Access to Information. These initiatives reaffirm the federal government's confidence in its independent, science-based regulatory approach to agricultural biotechnology. They also reflect that, as science and industry advance and consumer interest grows, it is appropriate to maintain the strength of our regulatory framework and ensure that information available to the public about the technology and to consumers about food products is balanced and accurate. In so doing, Americans will be in a better position to realize fully the enormous promise of this technology.
DETAILS OF ADMINISTRATION INITIATIVES
Reinforcing the Strength of Science-Based Regulation
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will conduct a 6 month interagency assessment of Federal environmental regulations pertaining to agricultural biotechnology and, where appropriate, make recommendations to improve them.
The FDA will take steps to ensure that it is informed at least 120 days before new agricultural biotechnology crops or products are introduced into the food supply.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), FDA, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will support an expanded program of competitively awarded, peer-reviewed research focusing on current and future safety issues to expand the existing body of independent science on biotechnology derived foods.
Enhancing Information for Consumers and Farmers
FDA will develop guidelines to help ensure product label claims concerning the biotechnology status of foods are truthful and not misleading. The guidelines will help manufacturers design labeling that is truthful and informative, rather than confusing. The agency will develop draft labeling guidelines with the use of focus groups, and will publish them for comment so as to receive maximum consumer input.
USDA will work with farmers and industry to facilitate the creation of reliable testing procedures and quality assurance programs for differentiating non-bioengineered commodities to better meet the needs of the market.
USDA will develop an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to seek input from consumers, industry, and scientists on how best to meet the needs of evolving markets. The ANPR will seek input on current market practice. In addition, it will seek input on the feasibility and desirability of quality assurance programs.
USDA, FDA, EPA, and the State Department will enhance domestic and foreign public education and outreach activities to improve understanding of the nature and strength of our regulatory process.
USDA will work closely with the State Department to ensure collection of timely information on overseas markets, and will provide farmers with reliable information on markets to inform their planting decisions and with best farming practices for new crop varieties.