CRISPR’s gene-edited crops might provide an opportunity to revamp biotech regulations

| | March 14, 2016
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

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Thanks to entirely specious fears about the safety of modern biotech crops, regulatory encrustations are significantly slowing the introduction of new genetically modified crop varieties. . . In the U.S., the regulation costs of getting a new variety to farmers run about $136 million. As a result, only the bigger companies can afford to develop new crop varieties. The number of seed companies has fallen from scores in the 1980s to just six major companies today.

CRISPR opens an opportunity to avoid the regulatory mistakes of the past. . . .

. . . .

In February, a group of Chinese, German, and American biotech researchers outlined in Nature Genetics a fairly reasonable regulatory framework for genome-edited crops. . . the researchers would have to show that no foreign genes remain in their GEC varieties. . . and make sure there are no off-target edits. If the new GEC variety satisfies these conditions, it should be . . . regulated no more stringently than any other commercial crop variety. . . .

An editorial in the same issue of Nature Genetics endorses this proposal. A distinction must be established, particularly in the public sphere, between . . .GMOs . . . and ‘genome-edited crops’ (GECs) generated through precise editing of an organism’s native genome, it urges. Given that no one has gotten so much as a . . . bellyache from . . . current biotech crops, the distinction . . . is not being made for safety reasons, but . . . to forestall regulators from applying their already excessive rules to gene-edited crops. So far it seems to be working.

. . . .

“We are now at the dawn of the gene-editing age.” In this age, farmers will be able to grow more, better, and safer food . . .—but only if regulators will stay out of the way.

Read full, original post: CRISPR Critters: Regulators and the New Gene Revolution in Agriculture

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