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June 4, 2024

National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology Announces Introduction of Agricultural Bills

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On May 23, 2024, the National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology (NSCEB) issued a press release applauding its Congressional Commissioners — Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Todd Young (R-IN) and Representatives Stephanie Bice (R-OK) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) — for introducing the legislative recommendations from its first report. The press release states that recognizing that food security and agricultural supply chains are key elements of national security, NSCEB developed its first three legislative proposals:

  • The Agriculture and National Security Act (H.R. 8522, S. 4420): Designated as critical infrastructure, U.S. agriculture consists of complex, integrated networks with many potential failure points. This bill recognizes the need to identify and mitigate threats to food and agriculture, particularly with regard to emerging technologies. It would establish a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Senior Advisor for National Security to work in partnership with the USDA Office of Homeland Security; encourage employee exchange between USDA and national security and intelligence agencies; and instruct USDA to identify gaps related to food and agriculture in existing national security and intelligence efforts;
  • The Agricultural Biotechnology Coordination Act (H.R. 8539, S. 4421): Within USDA, biotechnology policies and activities span multiple agencies working on research and development, extension and education, regulation, labeling, and trade. This bill would establish a USDA Office of Biotechnology Policy to coordinate these efforts. The office would also serve as a voice for biotechnology developers, academics, farmers, and others who may be affected by changes to biotechnology policies; and
  • The Biotechnology Oversight Coordination Act (H.R. 8538, S. 4428): This bill builds on federal efforts to coordinate U.S. biotechnology regulation, responding to developers’ calls for regulatory efficiency and clarity. The bill would, for the first time in the nearly 40-year history of U.S. biotechnology regulation, require interagency coordination in statute.

In addition to these bills, NSCEB notes that the Senate package includes the Synthetic Biology Advancement Act (originally sponsored by Young and endorsed by NSCEB). This would create a Synthetic Biology Center under USDA with a focus on the application of synthetic biology to food security and agriculture.