President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One and heading to Iowa on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One and heading to Iowa on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (Douglas Christian/Zuma Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday directing federal agencies to ease rules for approving genetically modified crops and other agricultural biotechnology.

The order instructs the U.S. Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency - all of which have jurisdiction over genetically engineered agricultural products - to review their biotechnology regulations to streamline approval processes, according to a White House fact sheet.

Trump signed the order Tuesday during a stop at an ethanol plant in politically important Iowa. The order is intended to speed approval of new agricultural biotechnology, reduce developers' costs and encourage more investment in GMO crops, the White House said in a fact sheet.

The move was cheered by industry representatives, who said prudent regulations can help foster biology-driven innovations that can improve nutrition, reduce food waste and bolster crop yields.

Jim Greenwood, president of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, said the group "applauds the Trump administration for taking this important step forward to ensure government policy does not hinder 21st-century biotechnology from addressing the many global challenges - from a looming food crisis to climate change - that are facing society today."

The Agriculture Department last week proposed a broad overhaul of biotech rules that would exempt from regulation genetically edited farm products with traits "similar in kind" to modifications that could be produced through traditional breeding techniques.

Wheat plants genetically engineered to resist the Monsanto herbicide Roundup were recently detected in an unplanted field in Washington State, although there's no evidence that the grain has entered the food supply, the Agriculture Department announced on Friday. The USDA didn't say when or more precisely where the wheat was discovered. Genetically modified wheat hasn't been approved for sale in the U.S.

Asian and European buyers have in the past halted purchases from entire regions when modified strains of unapproved wheat were discovered.

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