Ag Biotech In USMCA

When the North American Free Trade Agreement was first implemented in 1994, ag biotechnology was in its early stage, but it has come along way since then. The United States and Canada are dealing with new realities, now that USMCA is in effect.

Laboratory based genetic sequencing and manipulation is clearly addressed in the new U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement rules. So now, scientific processes and regulations, that evolved independently for more than 25 years, needs to be standardized for the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

Ian Affleck is the VP of biotechnology for Crop Life Canada. Crop Life Canada is working to align regulations spelled out under the new USMCA, and Affleck says that those rules will require systemic changes because the American and the Canadian GMO development rules evolved very differently. “Most countries around the world, the U.S. included, chose a process based approached. So, their step would be to say, ‘Did you use genetic engineering, and create a GMO? If so, we want to take a look.’ Canada took a different approach, to say, ‘It doesn’t matter how you made it, it’s really about what you made. Is the product you made so new that we need to take a look, as a government, to ensure its safety,’” Affleck states.

Glyphosate-tolerance, BT-insecticide integration, and trait-stacking made for huge and obvious changes to crops and yield. Affleck notes that recent advances in gene editing technology are far more subtle, and small differences can make big problems for seed breeders accessing new markets.

“The advent of gene editing is a really new technology for plant breeders. It adds a new wrinkle into the equation... It may be able to make a larger or drastic change, or it might be a smaller change,” according to Affleck, “so, this is why we need this policy guidance of what is new, to make sure that as plant breeders are embarking on products, they know what it is they have to do, to meet their regulatory expectations.”

Crop Life Canada is lobbying in favor of the U.S. processed based approach, for very practical reasons.