The pork industry wants the regulation of livestock genome editing transferred to the USDA from the Food and Drug Administration. The USDA already regulates genome editing of plants.

To support the transfer, an industry trade association has launched the “Keep America First in Agriculture” campaign. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is sponsoring the effort.

Dan Kovich, NPPC’s deputy director for science and technology, says gene editing is a powerful new way to combat animal diseases. Genome editing of plants and animals can create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is often associated with gene editing. CRISPR is one method, or tool, of gene editing.

“With gene editing, livestock breeders can knock out specific genes that make animals vulnerable to viral infections, Kovick says. “Healthier animals benefit both farmers and consumers.”

Argentina, Brazil, and Canada are among the countries that have cut the red tape for gene editing to compete in the global agricultural marketplace. China and the European Union may be next because of the interest in combatting diseases like African swine fever.

‘By contrast, the FDA’s regulatory process is seen as excessive by the pork industry. FDA’s editing approvals are lengthy and expensive to obtain. Some say the FDA views livestock as drugs and farms as drug manufacturing facilities.

Unless USDA takes over livestock genome editing, says the NPPC, elite breeding will be going to other countries. Greg Ibach, the USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory affairs, recently told Congress that U.S. producers could be at a competitive disadvantage because of regulatory requirements, which some call burdens.

Genome editing or gene splicing is a way of making specific changes to the DNA of a cell or organism. An enzyme cuts the DNA at a particular sequence, and when this is repaired by the cell, a change or “edit” is made to the sequence.

Genome editing has been used in agriculture to genetically modify crops to improve their yields and resistance to disease and drought, as well as to modify cattle that don’t have horns genetically.

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