Science Expert Shares How Policy is Shaping Innovation, Access to Technology in US Pork IndustryThu, 05 Jul 2018 12:51:28 CDT
During the Oklahoma Pork Congress last week, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays caught up with Dan Kovich, director of science and technology with the National Pork Producers Council. Kovich discussed with producers at the Congress a variety of topics covering much of the innovation that is taking place throughout the pork and larger livestock industry currently, including such issues as CRISPR technology, the need of a national Foot & Mouth Disease vaccine bank and the rise of fake meat. He touched on these subjects and others with Hays, offering his thoughts from an NPPC perspective. You can listen to their complete conversation, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
As perhaps the top priority for pork producers and their partners in the livestock industry, Kovich says the NPPC was very pleased to see included in both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill, language authorizing the establishment of a national Foot & Mouth Disease vaccine bank. However, the matter of available appropriations to fund the project remain to be seen at this time, causing alarm for concerned stakeholders bating their breath to see what the final outcome is once Congress produces a final Farm Bill to replace the current one that will expire later this year.
“We are woefully unprepared should Foot & Mouth Disease ever come to this country,” Kovich said, explaining how the USDA revised its FMD policy from using eradication to vaccination rather in the event of an outbreak. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the vaccine to carry out that strategy and it’s not just something you can go buy off the shelf when you need it. We need to prepare ahead and have that on hand. We’re very pleased that the House and their Farm Bill included mandatory funding for the vaccine bank. The Senate had authorizing language in their bill, but no mandatory funding.
“So, we are very hopeful that as the Senate and House go into conference on their respective versions of the Farm Bill that what comes out will include that desperately needed mandatory funding.”
In addition, Kovich has been paying close attention to other pertinent scientific issues that have cropped up, such as questions as to how the gene-editing technology CRISPR should be regulated. At present, the Food & Drug Administration is lobbying to designate the experimental technology as an animal drug.
“That’s a square peg in a round hole as far as we’re concerned,” Kovich shrugged. “It’s not a drug and if regulated as such it’s just going to raise a whole slew of problems. We feel the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service is the right place for this to rest. They have the right expertise and the authority to regulate in a way that ensures it’s safe, protects public confidence, but also allow access to this technology across animal agriculture.”
Issues regarding the appropriate regulation of products that the livestock industry has identified as “fake meat” have appeared on the scene as well. Again, the FDA has challenged the USDA’s jurisdiction here, but Kovich argues that it is the USDA that has the authority to regulate meat products - a term that seems to need to be redefined here in the modern era of food science.
“What we need to look at really is what they are allowed to get away with saying on their labels and their marketing,” he said, “that often are just misleading or aren’t based on facts.”
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