USDA won't regulate most genetically edited plants

The US Department of Agriculture has stated that it will not regulate the majority of genetically edited plants, making it much easier for these food products to be brought to market. The USDA's Secretary Sonny Perdue offered the clarification today, saying the agency doesn't regulate these plants and that it has no plans to start regulating them in the future. There is, however, an exception.

In his statement, Perdue explained that the USDA will not regulate plants that can be developed using traditional breeding techniques. The idea here is that genetically editing crops simply gets humans to their end goal, whether that's increase resistance or something similar, at a much faster rate than the tedious process of breeding new plant varieties.

The exception to the USDA's regulation plans are "plant pests" or genetically edited plants developed using plant pests. As well, the lack of regulation doesn't apply to genetically modified crops that couldn't be produced using regular breeding techniques, such as plucking the genes from one plant and introducing them into another to produce a third variety not possible in nature.

Perdue explains the USDA's reasoning, saying:

With this approach, USDA seeks to allow innovation when there is no risk present. At the same time, I want to be clear to consumers that we will not be stepping away from our regulatory responsibilities. While these crops do not require regulatory oversight, we do have an important role to play in protecting plant health by evaluating products developed using modern biotechnology. This is a role USDA has played for more than 30 years, and one I will continue to take very seriously, as we work to modernize our technology-focused regulations.

Despite controversy (and conspiracy), genetically edited crops hold a lot of promise for addressing the world's food shortage issues, agriculture problems caused by climate change, and the need to reduce pesticide use to protect declining bee populations. Technologies for genetically modifying plants could result in crops that are better able to withstand diseases, droughts, and more.