Can gene-edited crops be ‘detected’? Claims by Greenpeace and anti-biotech activists dismissed by safety officials, scientists

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A joint report by several NGOs caused a stir on September 7th by claiming that [gene editing] was now detectable by means of a laboratory test. This refutes the claim of genetic engineering proponents that plants produced using [gene editing] are indistinguishable from conventionally grown plants.

Among others, Greenpeace …. funded a study conducted by researchers from Iowa who said they have developed a detection method that can be used to identify point mutations.

The Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), as the licensing authority, took a closer look at this study. The BVL came to a significantly different conclusion than the anti-genetic engineering NGOs.

The herbicide tolerance trait in Cibus oilseed rape [used in the study] was the result of a point mutation. The BVL made it clear: These mutations can have very different origins: New breeding methods, such as genome editing, as well as classic breeding methods and random biological processes are all possible sources of such genetic changes.

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

“According to the information available, the BVL comes to the conclusion that the point mutation considered in the article did not result from genome editing processes,” the agency said.

In a more detailed analysis …. the BVL stated that the named detection method is suitable for identifying this specific point mutation, but not “whether it actually came about in one of the rapeseed lines through genome editing,” BVL added in its statement.

This story was published in German and has been translated and edited for clarity.

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