CRISPR offers opportunity for society to re-define GMOs

| | February 1, 2016
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. . . .Can CRISPR foster advances for the common good?

I’d argue “yes” — but to ensure benefits outweigh downsides will require a change more revolutionary than any tech breakthrough: an inclusive process for deliberating on and providing adequate societal oversight of risks, trade-offs and opportunity costs of CRISPR engineering. It will hinge on the involvement of everyday people — not just scientists or companies — in decisions about the food system.

Key to making good decisions, first of all, is to understand that not all applications of CRISPR are created equal — or have equal implications for the sustainability of agriculture. . . .  Our policies need to treat CRISPR not as a single technology, but as a toolbox full of technologies, each of which is specific to the mutation, organism and ecosystems in question.

. . .

CRISPR is giving us a rare opportunity. . . to escape GMO definitions stuck in the 1980s and begin treating agriculture and food as the complex systems they are. It invites us to update biotech governance to include expertise from a wider public and range of sciences. We’ll need to consult not just geneticists but also ecologists. Not just natural scientists but social scientists. Not just scientists, but farmers, consumers, seed producers and workers across the food chain.

. . . .

Will we take up the CRISPR challenge? Early developments in applications for agriculture suggest that we could miss this rare chance to foreground sustainability and public deliberation, rather than re-entrenching an industrial status quo. But if we raise our voices now, early developments could force disruptive, democratic thinking instead.

Read full, original post: CRISPR is Coming to Agriculture — With Big Implications for Food, Farmers, Consumers and Nature

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