Advances like gene silencing and other gene editing methods, like CRISPR technology, make biotech plant breeding cheaper and more precise than the first generation of genetically engineered crops. New technologies are also less expensive for companies when it comes to federal regulations, as the U.S. Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration require fewer costly tests.
Huge companies like Monsanto have dominated the industry, [Sally] Mackenzie [a plant geneticist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln] says, in part because of the high cost of regulations. Old biotech crops were aimed at big commodities in large part because it was a sure way to recoup that investment.
Engineered plants that don’t introduce new genes don’t face the same regulatory hurdles. Groups critical of GMO technology want to see stronger regulations in order to evaluate potential long-term impacts of biotech crops on health and the environment. Federal agencies are reviewing their rules around GMOs to catch up with the technology.
Under the current regulatory structure, however, it is more economically viable, Mackenzie says, for smaller biotech companies to market their own innovations.
“So you’re going to see more and more, I think, traits coming out that are really consumer friendly, designed to respond to consumer demand,” Mackenzie says. “And for smaller markets, for the apple market which isn’t nearly as huge as, say, for the corn market.”
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