The U.S. government is hoping an expert panel will be the next best thing to a crystal ball in helping predict what the future of biotechnology holds. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) in Washington, D.C., yesterday held the first public meeting of a new committee of academic and industry researchers, tasked with forecasting what biotechnologies will emerge in the next 5 to 10 years, and what new types of risk they might pose to the environment or human health.
The effort comes as U.S. regulatory agencies prepare to update the legal framework for evaluating biotechnology products.
The White House announced last July that it would revise the nearly 24-year-old framework for how companies should clear agricultural biotech products, such as genetically modified (GM) crops and animals, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). New gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR have sped the development of new crop varieties and animals, but products based on engineered organisms sometimes face a web of complex and overlapping regulations before they can reach the market.