Since 1986, the United States government has regulated genetically engineered (GE) organisms pursuant to a regulatory framework known as the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (Coordinated Framework) (51 FR 23302, 57 FR 22984). The Coordinated Framework, published by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, describes the comprehensive federal regulatory policy for ensuring the safety of biotechnology research and products and explains how federal agencies will use existing Federal statutes in a manner to ensure public health and environmental safety while maintaining regulatory flexibility to avoid impeding the growth of the biotechnology industry. The Coordinated Framework is based on several important guiding principles: (1) agencies should define those transgenic organisms subject to review to the extent permitted by their respective statutory authorities; (2) agencies are required to focus on the characteristics and risks of the biotechnology product, not the process by which it is created; (3) agencies are mandated to exercise oversight of GE organisms only when there is evidence of “unreasonable” risk.
The Coordinated Framework explains the regulatory roles and authorities for the three major agencies involved in regulating GE organisms: USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The FDA regulates GE organisms under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety and proper labeling of all plant-derived foods and feeds, including those that are genetically engineered. To help developers of food and feed derived from GE crops comply with their obligations under Federal food safety laws, FDA encourages them to participate in a voluntary consultation process. All food and feed derived from GE crops currently on the market in the United States have successfully completed this consultation process. The FDA policy statement concerning regulation of products derived from new plant varieties, including those genetically engineered, was published in the Federal Register on May 29, 1992 (57 FR 22984-23005). Under this policy, FDA uses what is termed a consultation process to ensure that human food and animal feed safety issues or other regulatory issues (e.g., labeling) are resolved prior to commercial distribution of bioengineered food.
The EPA regulates plant-incorporated protectants under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA also sets tolerance limits for residues of pesticides on and in food and animal feed, or establishes an exemption from the requirement for a tolerance, under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and regulates certain biological control organisms under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA is responsible for regulating the sale, distribution and use of pesticides, including pesticides that are produced by an organism through techniques of modern biotechnology.