Daily News Archive
From January 18, 2001

EPA Releases Rules on Plants Genetically Engineered to Produce Pesticides

On January 17, 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released three rules to describe its framework for federal oversight of plant pesticides, which include plants engineered through biotechnology to express pesticidal properties, such as the Bt-producing StarLink corn. These plant pesticides, now referred to by EPA as plant-incorporated protectants (PIP's) are substances which are produced and used by a plant to protect it from pests, such as insects, viruses, and fungi. EPA's rules define the type of PIP's that will be regulated by the agency.

"EPA's rules are a cornerstone of federal oversight of genetically engineered crops," said Environmental Defense senior scientist Dr. Rebecca Goldburg. "These rules are essential to protecting both the environment and food safety." EPA proposed these rules in 1994, however they were often disregarded by industry because they were not enforceable until they were published on January 17th.

According to Dr. Goldburg, EPA's rules are consistent with an April, 2000 National Academy of Sciences report. The report, Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation, urged that EPA's rules be finalized, and that the scope of the rules be expanded slightly, to apply to some types of genetically engineered plants not covered by the proposed rule.

Some scientists and environmentalists are concerned about the exemptions listed in the new rules. The following exceptions have been included: PIP's developed through conventional breeding will remain exempt from all Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requirements, with the exception of adverse effects reporting requirements for manufacturers; and certain DNA genetic material involved in the production of the pesticidal substance in the plant will be exempt from tolerance requirements.