Argentina cuts GM red tape

homecoverArgentina has streamlined its biotech crop regulatory framework to ensure neither red tape nor international trading partners’ policies hold up commercialization. The country, one of the first to embrace biotech crops, relied for two decades on a hodgepodge of agencies and rules to govern genetically modified (GM) crop commercialization (Nat. Biotechnol. 28, 393–395, 2010). A 2010 reform established a new Ministry for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, which updated and consolidated rules in 2012. This spring, the Ministry packaged those rules in a single booklet for commercial and academic growers. Under the old rules, GM crops that had already passed food safety and environmental impact assessments still needed commercial approval. The commercial committee exercised a so-called mirror policy of approving for cultivation only GM crops that trading partners, such as the European Union, had approved for import. That policy led to one crop being held up for a total of 12 years, says the Ministry’s biotech director, Martín Lema. Now, thanks in part to World Trade Organization rulings and growing trade with partners such as China, Argentina has abandoned the mirror policy. Typical approval times may be around four years now, Lema says, down from an average of five to six years. Other changes include placing time limits on certain stages in the paperwork required for approvals. “While it’s very similar [to the old framework], this one is much more functional…. Industry is in accord with the changes,” says Fabiana Malacarne of the Argentine Seed Association, an industry group in Buenos Aires.

First published in Nature Biotechnology: [html] [pdf].