A gray area is appearing in U.S. regulations regarding GM crops, creating technical loopholes that companies are taking advantage of. Some companies are developing genetically modified crops – “novel crops” – using techniques that lie outside federal jurisdiction. Other GM crops are being produced via new methods, such as “genome editing”, methods that were not anticipated when the current regulations were created. This is raising concern not only among critics of GMOs, but among supporters, who worry about a lack of oversight, and what they view as an obsolete framework of regulations that is both cumbersome and expensive to navigate. (A recent industry-sponsored study says that it may cost a company up to $35M and require 2-5 years to navigate the regulatory process). Oversight of the process is shared by the USDA, the EPA, and the FDA. The gray area is providing economic opportunities for smaller companies to enter a marketplace generally dominated by larger players, such as Monsanto.

“If you take genetic material from a plant and it’s not considered a pest, and you don’t use a transformation technology that would sort of violate the rules, there’s a bunch of stuff you can do that at least technically is unregulated,” Jim Hagedorn, Scotts chief executive, told analysts in December 2013. He said the company nearly shut its biotech program after the previous mishap, until it hit upon the new strategy and created “a stunning array of products that are not regulated.”

The New York Times reports.