Gene editing set to revolutionize agriculture—but how should it be regulated?

plant roots
Image source: Kellogg Garden

In the next few decades, humanity faces its biggest food crisis since the invention of the plow. The planet’s population, currently 7.6 billion, is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050; to avoid mass famine, according to the World Resource Institute, we’ll need to produce 70 percent more calories than we do today.

So here’s a thought experiment: Imagine that a cheap, easy-to-use, and rapidly deployable technology could make crops more fertile and strengthen their resistance to these looming threats. Imagine that it could also render them more nutritious and tastier, with longer shelf lives and less vulnerability to damage in shipping—adding enhancements to human health and enjoyment, as well as reduced food waste, to the possible benefits.

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In fact, this technology does exist, though its use remains mostly experimental. It’s called gene editing, and in the past five years it has emerged as a potentially revolutionary force in many areas [including] agriculture.

Related article:  Support for crop gene editing in UK, Europe grows as legislators aim to expand sustainable farming

Recently, two of the world’s most powerful regulatory bodies offered very different answers to that question. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared in March 2018 that it “does not currently regulate, or have any plans to regulate” plants that are developed through most existing methods of gene editing. The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), by contrast, ruled in July that such crops should be governed by the same stringent regulations as conventional GMOs.

Read full, original article: What’s the Right Way to Regulate Gene-Edited Crops?

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