The United States Department of Agriculture shares significant regulatory authority over GM crops with FDA and EPA. Transgenic, or genetically modified, plants are regulated by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (“APHIS”) under the Plant Protection Act (“PPA”).
The FDA’s regulatory approach thus focuses on the end product, rather than the process used to create genetically modified foods. In short, the FDA regards GM products as “generally regarded as safe,” (“GRAS”) and does not subject GM food products to food additive review.
The Food and Drug Administration is the lead regulatory agency of food articles. It is in charge of ensuring the safety and effectiveness of food (other than meat), food additives, medical devices, drugs, veterinary drugs, cosmetics and genetically engineered food.
TSCA provides the EPA with authority to regulate chemical substances which may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment during manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, use, or disposal. TSCA applies to uses of substances that are not specifically covered by another statute, i.e., TSCA does not apply to pesticides, food, drugs or cosmetics. TSCA is therefore a “catch-all” or “gap-filler” statute.
In the case of herbicide-tolerant crops, EPA establishes tolerances for the allowable amount of herbicide residues that may remain on the crop.
EPA uses its authority under FIFRA to regulate plant incorporated protectants, or substances produced to control pests, both, to ensure that the production of such a pesticide in plants is safe for the environment, and to establish allowable levels of the pesticide in the food supply.
Any substance produced and used in a living plant, whether through conventional breeding or genetic modification is regulated by the EPA if it is intended to control pests. As such, the EPA has a role in regulating the several types of genetically modified organisms.
Presently, it is questionable whether the genetically engineered foods are adequately controlled and/or regulated under U.S. law. There is no single federal statute or federal agency that governs the subject matter. Three federal agencies are primarily responsible for the regulation of genetically engineered foods – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).