Genetic engineering needs space from regulators

, | | February 9, 2015
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

The newly approved, genetically engineered “Innate” brand of potato is quite remarkable. It is bruise resistant and contains 50 to 70 percent less asparagine, a chemical that is converted to acrylamide, a presumptive carcinogen, when heated to high temperatures. The advantage of lower levels of acrylamide is obvious, but the bruise resistance is important to sustainability because of the potential to decrease waste.

The Innate potato is one example of new genetic engineering techniques that are more precise and versatile than ever. These advances promise a new generation of improved crops, animals, and microorganisms that will be attractive to the public. But the new techniques also raise critical questions about public policy. How will the various regulatory agencies approach them as a matter of law and regulation? And, further out, how will regulatory agencies approach the emerging field of synthetic biology?

Based on recent history, the answers to such questions are not comforting. Most of the federal agencies involved have ignored both common sense and the consensus of the scientific community, and policymakers and federal bureaucrats have crafted regulations that have created formidable regulatory delays and expense.

The nation has already foregone significant benefits because of the over-regulation and discriminatory treatment of genetic engineering. If we are to avoid repeating those mistakes for newer genetic modification technologies and synthetic biology, we must have more scientifically defensible and risk-based approaches to oversight. We need and deserve better from governmental regulatory agencies and from their congressional overseers.

Read full, original article: Give Genetic Engineering Some Breathing Room

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