Gene-edited crops approved by USDA jumps from 7 to 70 between 2019 and 2020

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A gene-edited rice recently approved by USDA. Credit: CIAT

Signaling progress for a new kind of crop engineering, the biotech crop trait firm Cibus says it will move forward with field trials for 14 gene-edited crops including canola with a seedpod-shatter reduction trait it says will give farmers more flexibility in when they harvest.

The crops are part of this year’s batch of 70 gene-edited plants that the US Department of Agriculture says will not require the same level of testing and controls as traditional genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Last year, the first full year for current USDA guidance on gene-edited crops, only seven such crops got the green light.

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Related article:  Insect-resistant GMO crops make key contributions to fighting hunger, US State Department reports

According to the USDA, crops with traits that are created without using transgenes—which are genes borrowed from other species—do not meet the definition of a regulated GMO. Instead, non-transgenic gene-editing is considered a plant-breeding technology.

The precision afforded by new gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR has made it possible for many more companies to create and commercialize traits compared to older GMO practices, which require large investments and long timelines. In addition to the ag giants Corteva Agriscience and J.R. Simplot, smaller firms and start-ups including Inari Agriculture, Pairwise, and CoverCress have traits in development. A number of universities also plan to release new traits.

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