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Wheat, Soy, and More Maybe

The US Department of Agriculture announced this week that it has no plans to regulate genome-edited plants.

In a statement, it says it won't oversee plants developed using tools like gene editing that could have been developed through traditional breeding methods. The agency adds, though, that it will continue to oversee plant pests and those developed using plant pests. "With this approach, USDA seeks to allow innovation when there is no risk present," Secretary Sonny Perdue says in a statement.

Technology Review calls this a "big win for the biotech industry." Wired adds that it will speed up gene editing of crops and extend it beyond large companies and key crops. "Having this consistent position enables smaller companies and academic labs to form this ecosystem of innovation to bring options to consumers," Federico Tripodi, the CEO of the gene-editing firm Calyxt, tells Wired. It adds that his company is working on editing soybeans to produce oil that can take high heat without producing trans fats and on low-gluten and high-fiber wheat.

Wired notes, though, that the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration have yet to weigh in on whether edited foods will be labeled as such. A former FDA lawyer tells it that how the USDA statement was worded suggests that the agency may consider labeling unnecessary.