Viewpoint: ‘Onerous’ regulations exacerbate consumer fear of gene-edited crops

Credit: University of Pennsylvania

….[T]he use of genetic engineering and gene editing to develop new crop varieties is well understood by the scientific community to be of no higher risk than developing crop varieties through traditional breeding methods, yet public fear of genetic engineering remains prevalent. However, public fear has likely been driven and exacerbated by risk-disproportionate regulation which can be perceived by the public as appropriate because of some inherent technology risks.

Jurisdictions with the most risk-disproportionate regulation, like the European Union, have seen the least consumer acceptance of modern breeding methods and the most restricted availability of its products to farmers. Therefore, applying metabolomics in a risk-disproportionate manner to gene-edited crops would be inconsistent with the evidence and experience with transgenic crops and counter to public acceptance.

Related article:  Farm groups push USDA oversight of gene-edited animals, potentially sparking new regulatory battle with FDA

Ever increasing regulatory requirements resulting from the inappropriate application of new technologies to risk assessment, as opposed to starting with problem formulation and the construction of potential pathways to harm, can transform sound risk assessment into a prescribed checklist of studies.

This is already exemplified within many regulatory frameworks for genetically engineered crops, despite overwhelming evidence that such crops do not pose higher risks than varieties developed through traditional breeding. Therefore, manuscripts suggesting the utility of specific technologies to support the risk assessment of crops developed with new breeding methods, such as gene editing, would benefit from input from scientists with expertise in risk assessment.

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