Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology

USDA Issues Guidance to Facilitate Compliance with Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard

In December 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) promulgated a new National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFD Standard or the Standard) to require food manufacturers, importers, and other entities that label foods for retail sale to disclose information about bioengineered food and bioengineered food ingredients. While compliance with all of the Standard’s requirements will not be mandatory until January 1, 2022, a “voluntary compliance period” began on January 1, 2020, during which time regulated entities (above $10 million in gross receipts) must identify covered products and may (but are not required to) disclose bioengineered foods and ingredients.

For a complete overview of these developments, see the news alert here.

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U.S. Government Accountability Office Issues Recommendations to Clarify Joint Framework for Regulating Cell-Cultured Meat Products

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is recommending that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strengthen existing efforts to prepare for oversight of “cell-cultured” meat. In a report published on April 7, 2020 and released to the public in early May, GAO analyzed the joint USDA-FDA regulatory framework for overseeing the production of cell-cultured meat and has recommended that the two agencies more fully incorporate leading practices for effective collaboration in their 2019 interagency agreement.

For the full news alert, click here.

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Federal Agencies Launch New Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation

On January 9, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a new “Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation” that provides a compilation of links to informational resources about biotechnology on each agency’s website as well as associated laws, regulations, and policies.

The website follows President Trump’s June 11, 2019 Executive Order, which directed his administration to modernize the regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology products.  In addition to providing an overview of each agency’s responsibility under the U.S. Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, the website also includes a list of Frequently Asked Questions and allows users to submit specific questions or comments to one or more agencies.

According to EPA, the goals of the website including providing enhanced customer service to innovators and developers, while offering the public an opportunity to “learn more about the safe use of biotechnology products.” 

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Senate Introduces Bill to Formalize Joint Framework for Regulating Cell-Cultured Meat Products

Producers of cell-cultured meat – synthetic meat products derived from animal cell cultures that are intended to simulate the taste, appearance, and texture of traditional animal products – may soon receive regulatory direction from Congress. On December 16, 2019, Senators Mike Enzi (WY) and Jon Tester (MT) introduced legislation to codify a joint agreement between the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulating the development and sale of cell-cultured meat products. The legislation aims to address ongoing uncertainty over which federal agency should regulate the cell culture development process, and would assign authority to USDA to establish appropriate label terms for cell-cultured meat products. The bill arrives even as a number of states have recently acted to prohibit cell-cultured meat products from being labeled as “meat” – and are now facing lawsuits in federal court.

For the full news alert, click here.

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Mississippi Joins States Enacting Stricter Labeling Requirements for Food Products Developed from Animal Cell Cultures

On July 1, Mississippi legislators passed a bi-partisan bill to prohibit certain animal-derived food products from being labeled as “meat” or a “meat food product.” While Senate Bill 2922 also imposes the same new restriction on plant-based and insect-based food products, its passage was driven at least in part to address recent developments in biotechnology that allow the growth of animal-derived food products in laboratories, rather than from livestock raised on farms and ranches. Specifically, SB 2922 amends Mississippi state law to prohibit meat labeling for any “plant-based” or “insect-based” food products, together with food products containing “cultured animal tissue produced from animal cell cultures outside the organism from which it is derived.” Its passage in Mississippi follows similar regulatory action in other states over the last year, including Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, and Wyoming.

For the full news alert, click here.

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White House Issues Executive Order to Modernize Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology

On June 11, 2019, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) calling on his administration to “modernize” the regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology products. Citing the importance of biotechnology to U.S. food production and agricultural productivity, the EO calls on federal agencies to ensure the “transparency, predictability, and consistency” of applicable federal regulatory processes while basing regulatory decisions on scientific and technical evidence, and taking economic factors into account “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.”

Specifically, the EO directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to each identify relevant regulations and guidance that can be streamlined, along with any opportunities to exempt low-risk products from “undue regulation.” The EO also directs the three agencies to design a web-based “Unified Biotechnology” platform to allow technology developers to submit inquiries about particular products and receive a “single, coordinated response” with informal guidance on the applicable regulatory process. 

In addition, the EO calls on EPA, USDA, and FDA to review their respective regulations and guidance applicable to “genome-edited specialty-crop-plant products designed to have significant health, agricultural, or environmental benefits, in particular those that are likely to benefit rural communities significantly,” with an eye toward updating and removing “undue barriers” that may impede commercialization. This effort is consistent with earlier steps taken by the administration, including USDA’s March 2018 clarification that it does not regulate plants produced through genome-editing and other innovative breeding techniques.

Finally, the EO directs USDA to take the lead on development of a consumer engagement action plan to build public confidence in the safe use of biotechnology in agriculture, and also requires the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Trade Representative to focus on international outreach and trade strategy to open and maintain markets for U.S. agricultural exports abroad.

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Regulatory Agencies Issue Joint Agreement to Regulate Laboratory-Grown Human Food

On March 7, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) entered into a formal agreement to cooperatively regulate human food created from animal cell culture technology. Consistent with the agencies’ original announcement on November 16, 2018, the agreement establishes a roadmap for each agency to oversee various aspects of the growth and production process, from cell collection and development to labeling harvested products for grocery store shelves.

“Lab-grown” or “cell-cultured” human food is derived from animal cells drawn from either a live biopsy from a living animal, or from an embryo. Scientists grow the food in a sterile laboratory by differentiating cells and allowing them to mature in a nutrient broth. The food mimics products that are traditionally derived from butchered livestock, poultry, or fish. Advocates claim that its commercialization can help reduce emissions from raising livestock and eliminate ethical concerns associated with animal slaughter, among other benefits. Click here for more information about the regulatory challenges and opportunities associated with cell-cultured meat.

Under the formal agreement, FDA is charged with overseeing developers’ initial cell collection, proliferation, and differentiation activities; FDA will also evaluate facility conditions for compliance with FDA regulations. Regulatory oversight will shift to USDA-FSIS at the time of cell harvest, and USDA-FSIS will conduct inspections of facilities where cells cultured from livestock and poultry are harvested, processed, packaged, or labeled. USDA-FSIS will also determine whether harvested cells are eligible to be processed into meat or poultry products that bear the USDA mark of inspection and ensure that products derived from livestock and poultry are labeled accurately. 

The agreement also lays the foundation for the agencies to develop a more detailed standard operating procedure to facilitate their coordination of shared regulatory oversight going forward. In addition, the agencies intend to develop joint principles for product labeling and claims to ensure that products are labeled consistently.

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A Burger By Any Other Name: Regulatory Challenges and Opportunities for Cell-Cultured Meat

A hamburger produced with zero waste and without slaughtering a single animal. A tuna sandwich prepared with no impacts on marine ecosystems. These are among the many environmental benefits touted by advocates of innovative cellular agriculture products that may begin reaching neighborhood grocery store shelves in the next few years. “Cell-cultured” meat -- alternatively described as “cell-based,” “clean,” “synthetic,” or “lab-grown” meat – is now under development by an expanding cadre of biotechnology companies around the globe. These companies are using cutting-edge laboratory science to create a new and sustainable source of meat that promises consumers the full taste, appearance, and texture of animal products while reducing reliance on, and in some cases replacing, modern animal agriculture and industrial production practices.

For the full text of this article, click here.

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National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Issues Report on Future Biotechnology Products

On March 9, 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released its report on “Future Biotechnology Products and Opportunities to Enhance Capabilities of the Biotechnology Regulatory System”. Commissioned in connection with the 2017 Update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, the new report provides an overview of developing plant, animal, and microbial technologies and recommends that federal agencies expand their scientific capabilities and levels of expertise in order to prepare for significant biotechnology product innovations anticipated over the next decade.

For the full report, visit the National Acadamies' website.

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Federal Agencies Issue Final Update to Biotechnology Regulatory Framework

On January 4, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration released their final version of the 2017 Update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology.

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