hazardous conventional products, such as stress-tolerant canola. At the same time, it brings under regulatory scrutiny some transgenic crop plants that it later determines to have no significant environmental risks. Indeed, an intraspecific recombinant DNA variety would be regulated even if the gene were removed and replaced back in its original location with no extraneous DNA. Thus, there are reasons for considering other or additional potential triggers for the regulation of crop varieties.
APHIS has the authority to regulate all plants that pose a plant pest risk under its present statutory authority. On May 25, 2000, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives agreed on a conference report on a new Plant Protection Act (PPA), which was developed to improve the government’s ability to prevent and mitigate the effects of organisms that might harm agriculture and the environment. This act, signed by President Clinton, on June 20, 2000, includes products of genetic engineering but is not limited to them. The PPA offers an opportunity for APHIS to refocus regulation on those plant products that pose risk, regardless of the method of derivation. As developed in more detail in Chapter 2, however, scientifically defensible ex ante risk assessment is not yet possible, so it will not be possible to develop a science-based trigger based solely on predictions of the risks associated with particular crop varieties. In addition, it would be imprudent to bring all conventional crop varieties under regulatory oversight. Thus, careful scientific thought must be applied to this problem to avoid extraneous regulation.
Finding 7.14: The committee finds that the Plant Protection Act of 2000 can be viewed as an opportunity to clearly define the types of novel plants, regardless of method of breeding, that trigger regulatory scrutiny.
As explained in previous chapters, APHIS regulates transgenic plants under the authority of the Federal Plant Pest Act (FPPA) and the Federal Plant Quarantine Act (FPQA). While the scope of these acts is quite broad, there are some taxonomic and functional limits that make regulation of some potentially hazardous organisms problematic. For example, the FPPA does not recognize vertebrates as pests. Furthermore, transgenic plants that have been modified using Agrobacterium DNA or the DNA from certain viral species fall clearly within the regulatory authority of the FPPA because these organisms are plant pests. Although APHIS can regulate plants that have been genetically transformed without the use of DNA from a plant pest, determining which plants will be regulated is not simple. As identified early in this report, the regulatory options available to APHIS through the FPPA are limited. For example, once a plant is deregulated, APHIS has no authority to restrict its use or to even monitor it.