According to a January 1, 2015, New York Times article by Andrew Pollack, the advent of new technologies has created a loophole in federal regulations for companies looking to market genetically-engineered (GE) crops. Noting that new techniques do not involve the transfer of genetic material from other species, use bacterium to insert foreign materials or rely on viruses to manipulate plant DNA, Pollack writes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lacks the authority to regulate these GE crops under its current mandate to protect against plant pests, including insects or pathogens. Although consumer watchdogs have warned that all GE crops could have unforeseen ecological consequences, proponents have argued that easing regulatory burdens will lower barriers to market entry and allow smaller companies to participate in product development.

“Regulators around the world are now grappling with whether these techniques are even considered genetic engineering and how, if at all, they should be regulated,” notes the article, pointing to genome-editing technologies and so-called cisgenic crops, “which are developed using conventional genetic engineering but with the insert genes from the same species as the crop.” As Pollack concludes, “[C]ompanies using the new techniques say that if the methods were not labeled genetic engineering, novel crops could be marketed or grown in Europe and other countries that do not readily accept genetically modified crops.”