NEW YORK — President Donald Trump wants to make it easier for genetically engineered plants and animals to enter the food supply, and he signed an executive order Tuesday directing federal agencies to simplify the “regulatory maze” for producers.
The move comes as new genetic engineering techniques make it easier to tinker with the traits of plants and animals.
Greg Jaffe, biotechnology director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the executive order’s impact will depend on how federal agencies implement it. Simply deregulating could make people lose confidence in genetically engineered foods, he said.
“There needs to be an assurance of safety for those products,” Jaffe said.
The order also noted that the government should urge trading partners to adopt similar regulatory approaches. Even if the U.S. loosens regulations on genetically engineered foods, Jaffe noted, companies could be hampered by regulations overseas.
Crops produced with newer gene-editing technologies wouldn’t automatically be subject to special oversight under the proposed rule, unless they posed a risk as plant pests. Companies have said that gene-editing allows them to more precisely alter plants and animals, and that what they’re doing could theoretically be achieved through conventional breeding.
The executive order may have a bigger impact for genetically engineered animals, which are currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. A genetically modified salmon that grows faster than regular salmon underwent years of regulatory reviews before being approved.
The fish was technically reviewed as a new animal drug, a process companies say is inappropriate for food. AquaBounty’s fish eggs only recently cleared a final regulatory hurdle, and are not yet for sale in the United States.