June 29, 2020

APLU and AAVMC Form Gene Editing Task Force

APLU and AAVMC Form Gene Editing Task Force

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) announced the creation of an eleven-person Gene Editing Task Force. The task force is comprised of scientists and industry leaders who will guide recommendations for regulating the emerging genomic technologies within animal agriculture. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates genetic work on food animals as an “animal drug,” and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates these technologies with crops.

The APLU and the AAVMC decided to take action in this area following inquiries from members of Congress to FDA Acting Commissioner Norman E. Sharpless concerning current regulatory processes. This motivated the APLU and AAVMC to hold a symposium in September 2019, “Gene Editing in Livestock: Looking to the Future,” where 23 of the nation’s experts examined a series of questions associated with gene editing. The questions assessed science and research, industry perspective, bioethics, public policy and regulations, and communication and public engagement. The Gene Editing Task Force is a direct result of this symposium.

“This is a very promising area of biotechnology that has the potential to unleash enormous progress in terms of food production and security,” said Dr. Noelle Cockett, President of Utah State University and a renowned geneticist who is leading the task force, in a press release. “Last fall’s symposium featured a series of presentations and discussions which identified and explored important questions and implications related to this emerging technology. These need to be thoughtfully considered and transformed into policy and regulatory recommendations. That’s the goal of this task force.”

This is not the first endeavor the APLU and the AAVMC have taken on together. The groups joined forces on a multi-year effort designed to address the growing antimicrobial resistance problem. That led to the establishment of the National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education, which is based at Iowa State University and operates in collaboration with a consortium of partner universities and medical institutions.

“The potential for gene editing to dramatically boost food security globally and reduce the burden on natural resources is enormous, but it must be done carefully and ethically,” APLU President Peter McPherson said in a press release. “We are very pleased to partner with AAVMC on this task force, which is bringing together some of the foremost leaders in the world to help recommend a path for the government to take to regulate this field in a way that protects all involved while allowing the science to flourish.”

The task force is expected to conduct its first virtual meeting in early summer, and in-person meetings will be held following the relaxation of pandemic-induced social distancing protocols.