Russia is embracing gene-editing. A 111-billion-rouble (US$1.7-billion) federal programme aims to create 10 new varieties of gene-edited crops and animals by 2020 — and another 20 by 2027.
Alexey Kochetov, director of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, welcomed the research program, noting that genetics in Russia has been “chronically underfinanced” for decades. Funding for science plummeted in the 1990s following the break-up of the Soviet Union, and Russia still lags behind other major powers: in 2017, it spent 1.11% of its gross domestic product on research, compared with 2.13% in China and 2.79% in the United States.
The program …. has also attracted interest because it suggests that some gene-edited products will now be exempt from a law passed in 2016 that prohibits the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) organisms in Russia, except for research purposes. Previously, it was not clear whether gene-edited organisms were included in the ban.
The 2016 law describes GM organisms as those with gene modifications “that cannot result from natural processes”. But the decree that established the new program describes gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR–Cas9 — which do not necessarily insert foreign DNA — as equivalent to conventional breeding methods.
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