GMO or not? Is new genetically edited herbicide tolerant canola oil a GMO?

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Cibus is a San Diego-based biotech company developing new ways to genetically engineer crops, without producing so-called GMOs. They’re hoping to cater to growing demand for food free of genetically modified organisms, while still creating crops that benefit from genetic engineering.

Jim Radtke, vice president of product development at Cibus, said its canola is modified to withstand a certain class of herbicides.

Nearly all the canola oil in U.S. grocery stores comes from transgenic plants. That means a gene from some other species, often a bacteria, has been inserted into the canola to impart some trait making it easier for farmers to work with.

Cibus alters canola DNA to produce beneficial traits too, but not through transgenics. They send a molecular messenger into the plant’s DNA, conscripting the canola’s own DNA-fixing enzymes into changing a gene. That messenger dissolves after its job is done, leaving no foreign genetic material in the finished crop.


Radtke says the Cibus approach isn’t genetic modification, it’s genetic editing.

Related article:  Behind the Label: 'Non-GMO verified'

“We all understand GMO to be transgenic,” said Radtke. “And as such, we’re not GMO.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has told Cibus their canola doesn’t have to be regulated as a GMO. Even in GMO-averse Europe, German food safety officials have classified Cibus canola as non-GMO.

However, an independent voluntary labeling organization called the Non-GMO Project told KPBS that Cibus canola is ineligible for their stamp of approval.


Jim Radtke said whatever you call Cibus canola, it represents the next step in genetically engineered crops.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: San Diego Biotech Company: Don’t Call Our Crop A GMO

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