Biotechnology Needs New Approach from EPA

Mar 24, 1999


At a joint hearing today of two House Agriculture Subcommittees, Chairmen Tom Ewing (R-IL) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) brought together representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), industry groups, and the scientific community to review the potential effects and costs of implementing a controversial new pesticide rule regulating the use of plants' natural defenses against pests.

In 1994, the EPA proposed regulating genetically engineered plants that contain genes for pest resistance.  Under this rule, plants modified to naturally defend against diseases and insects would be regulated as pesticides despite the absence of added chemical protectants.  The scientific validity of this regulation has been widely questioned throughout the agricultural biotechnology sector.

"The importance of U.S. biotechnology reaches beyond production agriculture to the international trade arena and while it is necessary to have a regulatory process in place to ensure the health and safety of consumers and the environment, we must assure that regulatory excess does not suffocate this industry," said Chairman Ewing of the Risk Management, Research, and Specialty Crops Subcommittee.

Due to the age of the rule, Chairman Ewing requested that EPA consider re-proposing the rule and provide for a new comment period to address issues raised at today's hearing.  These include replacing the term 'plant-pesticide' with 'plant expressed protectant,' expanding the proposed exemptions, and performing a thorough cost-benefit analysis of the new rule.

 "Today's hearing brought to the forefront the need to reevaluate this proposed rule," said Rep. Gary Condit (D-CA) the Risk Management Subcommittee's Ranking Member.  "Congress should exercise its oversight to make certain that EPA's final rule includes regulations which are scientifically-based, not unduly burdensome, and maintain global acceptance of genetically modified products.  In addition, EPA, the regulated community, and scientific societies should work together to develop a rule that satisfies their concerns while ensuring the health and safety of consumers and the environment."

 "We understand that this is an evolving science and what might be considered safe today might cause unknown challenges tomorrow," said Chairman Goodlatte of the Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry Subcommittee.  "Sound scientific review may be appropriate.  I am concerned, however, that EPA's proposed rule will become an inefficient, burdensome regulatory process that will retard innovation and take a promising technological tool from our farmers."