Critics push back against Australian government recommendation to loosen constraints on CRISPR gene editing research

rural australia

Australia’s gene technology regulator has proposed a bold shake-up of rules surrounding genetic engineering processes, potentially loosening constraints on research and development within the sector.

The key recommendation from Ray Bhula, who occupies an independent statutory position within the ambit of the federal Department of Health, is a change to the definition of “genetic modification” to exclude the use of gene editing techniques such as CRISPR.

At present, any procedure deemed to involve genetic modification is very tightly regulated. Bhula says this is because until recently GM procedures involved introducing genetic material from one species into the genome of another.

This is not the case with gene editing.

“With gene editing you don’t always have to use genetic material from another organism, it is just editing the [existing] material within the organism,” Bhula told broadcaster ABC.

“All of our regulatory frameworks and laws have been established based on people putting unrelated genetic material into another organism.

“Whereas this process is just manipulation within the organism and not introducing anything foreign.”

Opposition to the proposal, however, is expected to be loud and prolonged, with even some experts in the field expressing caution.

“The technology is likely to have significant long-term benefits in medicine and agriculture but current claimed benefits are perhaps overemphasised. The technology is still in its infancy and should continue to be highly scrutinized under rigorous federal authorities that govern GMOs,” [said Clovis Palmer, head of the Immunometabolism and Inflammation at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, Victoria.]

 

Read full, original post: Gene-edit deregulation proposal draws mixed response

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