The FDA & USDA Animal Oversight Brawl

Jan 26, 2021

A new memorandum of understanding (MOU) directs the FDA to hand over regulatory oversight of food animal biotechnology to the USDA – and they aren’t loosening their grip.

The MOU, signed by Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, leaves the FDA with control over just gene-edited animals unrelated to agriculture.

The industry-backed move has groups such as the National Pork Producers Council cheering for faster approvals through the USDA. While managing crop biotechnology, the USDA has opened the door to dozens of genetically-engineered [GE] plant varieties while the FDA has only green-lighted two animal equivalents.

But not everyone is on board with the swap.

After the MOU was announced, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn took to Twitter to express his….uhm, disagreement.

Rumors are swirling about Hahn’s refusals to sign the MOU and judicial challenges are expected.

Where this goes: It’s a game of wait-and-see with the new administration and incoming USDA head Tom Vilsak, but bets are on that it’ll be a brawl.

“I think that the FDA will keep fighting USDA on this,” said Jaydee Hanson, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety.

+ Side note: In December, GalSafe pigs joined Aquabounty’s GE salmon as the second GE animal to ever be approved by the FDA. GalSafe pigs don’t contain alpha-gal sugars, allowing red-meat lovers with Alpha-Gal Syndrome to finally put a fork in pork.