Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court, a district court from Northern California and the European Commission has had their say on how genetically modified organisms should be regulated. As more governments weigh in, it’s clear that without solid mandates from the federal government and consistency between the United States and the EC, this regulatory framework will be even more uncertain as time goes on.
In recent months, the U.S. Supreme Court, a U.S. District Court from the Northern District of California and the European Commission have discussed how genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should be regulated. Several U.S. and even some local jurisdictions have also chimed in. As more governments weigh in, one thing is clear: without effective mandates from the federal government and consistency between the United States and EC, the composition, structure and jurisdiction of this particular regulatory framework will become more and more uncertain as time passes.
This uncertainty doesn’t bode well for the rapid deployment of an advanced biofuels industry that does, and will continue to, rely heavily on innovative biotechnology and GMO products to develop alternatives to petroleum-based fuels.
The jurisdiction questions as to who regulates what is an essential element to the GMO debate. In the United States, three federal agencies have some jurisdiction over GMOs: The USDA, the U.S. EPA and the Food and Drug Administration. Each agency regulates a different aspect of GMOs, as pesticides, seeds and plants and food, respectively. However, federal regulation of GMOs isn’t comprehensive, which has left the door open for state and local regulation on the same issues.
Some states have certain requirements where the release of certain genetically engineered organisms is concerned. Even some counties in California and a town in Maine have outright banned the production and cultivation of any GMOs. While some could argue that these stipulations could be pre-empted by federal regulations, we won’t know until the feds implement a more comprehensive scheme.
What’s more, the EU is divided over the issue, with many countries distributing blanket prohibitions on GMO cultivation and others appearing more open to the concept.
At this time, it’s up to the federal government to take a position on GMO production and use in the context of advanced biofuel development, and research continues at several land-grant institutions to find out more concrete, scientific information to inform the debate on GMO use in advanced biofuel production.
How Should GMOs Be Regulated?
November 8, 2010