US growers of genetically-modified crops used to produce pharmaceutical and industrial compounds will face stricter requirements to obtain permits for field tests beginning this year, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced March 6. The new restrictions are an attempt to ensure that genetically-engineered crops grown for non-food purposes don't contaminate fields used to grow food crops.

"One of the things that we're anticipating is more requests for permits of this nature and a scale-up for commercialization of these projects," said Rebecca Bech, acting regulatory director for biotech regulatory services with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). "Our focus is to ensure the integrity of the regulatory system and the safe field testing."

The tighter restrictions were unveiled just two days after 11 environmental and consumer groups issued a 60-day notice that they would bring suit against USDA if it doesn't at least temporarily halt the planting of genetically...

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