Boyden Gray & Associates partner Andrew Varcoe is moderating a panel on gene editing in crops and animals at a conference co-sponsored by the National Agricultural Law Center, the National Association of Attorneys General, and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The conference will be held on August 15 and 16, 2018, in Little Rock, Arkansas. As the conference organizers note, the future of U.S. agriculture “is being and will be defined by rapidly emerging technologies – big data, gene editing of plants and animals, new crop protection products, rural broadband, to name a few – that apply throughout the agricultural sector. These technologies present many private and public sector opportunities and challenges, and raise novel legal and policy questions that must be dealt with at the state and federal levels.”

The title of the panel is Genetic Editing of Crops and Animals:  State & Federal Regulation. The panelists are Thomas P. Redick of Global Environmental Ethics Counsel (GEEC), LLC, in the St. Louis area, and Dr. Eric Williams, a partner and intellectual property law expert at Barnes & Thornburg LLP in Indianapolis.

The conference comes at a time when U.S. and other authorities have been actively considering how best to approach gene editing in agriculture. For example, in March 2018, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue released a statement pro­viding clarification on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) oversight of plants produced through genome editing and other new breeding techniques. The statement makes clear that “USDA does not regulate or have any plans to regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques as long as they are not plant pests or developed using plant pests.” By contrast, in July 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that plants developed using gene editing and other new techniques are subject to European Union legal requirements that govern genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The new ECJ ruling has been met with considerable criticism and surprise, including from USDA.

Before joining Boyden Gray & Associates in 2017, Mr. Varcoe served as Deputy General Counsel for Agriculture and Environment at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the trade association for the biotechnology industry, where he focused on legal, regulatory, and policy issues relevant to technological innovation in agriculture, natural resources, and the environment. Previously Mr. Varcoe was an appellate lawyer in the Office of the General Counsel at USDA, where he worked on a wide range of administrative law, environmental and natural resources law, and agricultural law matters. He spends much of his time on issues, projects, and strategic advice to clients relating to problems and opportunities connected to a range of federal agencies; energy, environmental, and natural resources industry matters; international investment issues; and technology and innovation.

For more information about the conference, please see here.