EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 25 divergence. This convergence is particu- larly true for using gene editing to make deletions and other changes that do not result in a “novel genetic combination”. We are also seeing countries seeing the value of aligning policies and having an understanding of the problems created by divergent policies. However, much work is left to be done both by the private sector and gov- ernments. The goal of the seed industry is consistent, science-based, policies across countries. In working toward this goal, it will be important to encourage opportu- nities and venues to facilitate government discussions toward this end. ES: EARLIER IN 2017, THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA) MADE A PROPOSAL WHICH WOULD REVISE THEIR CURRENT BIOTECH REGULATIONS. WHAT TRIGGERED THIS PROPOSAL? BS: USDA has well over 20 years of experience in implementing their cur- rent biotech regulations. In addition, all of the regulations that implement the US Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology were meant to evolve along with regulatory experience and the evolution of the science. The proposed rule set out some proposed definitions which essentially set up the initial scope of regulation. In these definitions, some exemptions were defined that would carve out certain applications of gene editing, such as genetic changes that could also occur through traditional mutagenesis and making genetic changes within the sexually compatible plant gene pool. The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) supported these exemptions. However, these definitions were a small part of the proposed regulatory revisions. The bulk of the proposal focused on revisions to the procedures to be used for those products falling under the scope of the regulations. ES: IN THE MEANTIME, IN EARLY NOVEMBER 2017, THE USDA PROPOSAL WAS WITHDRAWN. WHAT HAPPENED? BS: The United States has very strict requirements for the procedures that reg- ulatory agencies must go through during the rulemaking. Once a proposed rule is published in the US Federal Register asking for public comments, an agency is not allowed to engage stakeholders on the proposed rule, other than through the formal written commenting process. The agency proposing the rule cannot go beyond describing what is in the pro- posal when speaking with stakeholders. Therefore, USDA decided to withdraw the proposal so that it could more easily engage with stakeholders on additional options, particularly around the proce- dures for those products falling under the initial scope of the proposal. The withdrawal did not signal a change in course around the definitions/exemp- tions that defined the regulatory scope of the proposal. Withdrawing the proposal also allows USDA to more easily engage with other governments on concepts in the proposal, something that ASTA and the rest of the US agriculture value has strongly encouraged. ES: HOW ARE YOU ENGAGING ASTA MEMBERS IN SPREADING THE MESSAGE ABOUT PLANT BREEDING INNOVATION? ARE YOU SEEING THE FIRST EFFECTS? BS: ASTA has a very robust commu- nication effort around plant breed- ing innovation in general and more specifically around gene editing. It is extremely important that ASTA mem- bers have communication tools at their disposal, so they can, in turn, be able to tell the positive story of plant breed- ing the role that innovation has played in bringing a wide range of new vari- eties to farmers and ultimately to the consumer. ASTA also recognizes that any communication effort cannot be limited to the US borders and is there- fore collaborating with other national and regional seed associations as well as the International Seed Federation and CropLife International on creating these communication tools. For more information, visit www.seedinginnova- tion.org. Bernice Slutsky.