Viewpoint: CRISPR pioneers awarded Nobel Prize. Will EU embrace the technology to boost food production?


CRISPR-Cas, the technique with which DNA in cells can be cut with ‘genetic scissors,’ has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry this year. The French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier and the American biochemist Jennifer Doudna have been awarded the prestigious prize. CRISPR-Cas makes it possible to modify DNA and switch off genes with unprecedented precision. Many (hereditary) diseases in humans could be a thing of the past with this technique.

But arable farming and livestock farming are also looking with interest at this technique—still banned in the EU. The European Court of Justice classifies the Crispr-Cas technique as ‘genetic modification.’

In recent years, farmers and scientists have argued against the European policy on genetic modification, because it also shuts the door on CRISPR-Cas. The gene-editing technique is allowed in other countries outside the EU, such as the US and Canada. This difference in approach means that European breeders look beyond their own borders.

Related article:  Washington Post editorial: We have an 'urgent need' for international rules on gene-edited babies

Editor’s note: This article was published in Dutch and has been translated and edited for clarity.

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