At the Genome Edited Microbial Workshop in June 2023 we brought together academics, regulators and NGO partners for another engaging and productive workshop to further discuss genome-edited microbial products for agricultural use, and how to enable all involved at this critical junction for disruptive and innovative technologies. Our goal was to address the questions that arose in our previous workshop, and build several working groups to tackle these issues. We outlined the following questions as a starting point for our discussion, and from there we formulated a list of topics for research and create a more efficient and transparent regulatory framework.
- What are the main concerns from a regulatory agency perspective? The USDA APHIS has a regulatory requirements that should be fulfilled before issuing permits. Several permit applicants are either new to our regulatory process or dealing with new microbes that require more time for regulatory to conduct their own reviews delaying the issuance of permits on time. This workshop will help identify how best to facilitate (and education about) this process.
- What research is still needed to address gaps/concerns in the literature? From a regulatory perspective, it is important to determine the following: Is the new microbe a plant pest? Does it have biocontrol properties? What diagnostic tools are best suited to measure the presence of modified microbes in soil after the termination of field experiments? How far microbes disseminate and how long do they persist in soil or spread through spores beyond regulated field trials? Our hope is by the end of this workshop, we will have a team of scientists ready to tackle these and other questions together.
- How can we help to create a more efficient and transparent regulatory framework? This workshop will help to address this exact concern by bringing regulatory agencies that issue permits (BRS, PPQ, EPA) and conduct food safety assessment (FDA) and regulated community together and discuss how the process can be made more efficient or streamline the permitting process under a coordinated framework.
To see a list of the research questions we proposed and the working groups we organized, please see the Workshop Debrief document. We will continue to focus on the topics discussed within our working groups and reconvene for a third session either virtually or in-person at a later date.