The Plant Protection Act authorizes the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to protect plant health in the United States. Under that authority, APHIS currently regulates the introduction (movement into the United States or interstate, or release into the environment) of genetically engineered (GE) organisms that may present a plant pest risk through its regulations in 7 CFR part 340. These regulations are intended to protect against plant pest risks to plant health by providing for the safe importation, interstate movement, or release into the environment of certain GE organisms.

APHIS plans to prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement in connection with potential changes to the regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms. APHIS requested public comments to further define the scope of the alternatives and environmental impacts and issues for it to consider.

A Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an environmental impact statement concerning the introduction of products of biotechnology was announced in the Federal Register dated February 5, 2016 (81 FR 6225). BPIA provided comments on this NOI as it pertains to GE microorganisms, as well as its potential impact on non-GE microbial-based agricultural products.

BPIA believes that regulations should be based on the best available science, deliver appropriate health and environmental protection, and fully build upon the decades of experience that USDA has in reviewing both GE and non-GE microorganisms.  Any revisions to the regulations should be appropriate for any identified risk and maintain sufficient regulatory flexibility to avoid impeding innovation.