Viewpoint: ‘What’s the difference between a GM vaccine and a GM crop?’ Key to developing COVID shots, biotechnology could boost Europe’s farm yields and lower costs — if the public will accept it

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Credit: Baltic Times
Credit: Baltic Times

Millions of Europeans have been happy to receive a coronavirus vaccine, which relies on genetic engineering, prompting the question: What’s the difference between a GM shot and a GM crop? Will COVID-19 finally clinch the case in Europe for the commercial development of a technology that promises higher agricultural productivity, lower food prices, a cleaner environment and bigger export revenues for the U.S.?

Regulatory change in Britain is now a distinct possibility, and not only because the national mood has altered. Having left the EU, the U.K. is free to draw up its own rules, and the government is preparing to do just that. Plant scientist Jonathan Jones — although a staunch opponent of Brexit — is gratified.

“Through gritted teeth, I accept that this is a Brexit dividend. It means that we can come up with a more science-based regulatory framework.” he said.

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Meanwhile, the EU could, conceivably, do the same. European farm ministers have commissioned a study that also might lead it to allow commercial exploitation of the new gene-editing techniques in crop improvement, a heartening prospect for geneticists like Dirk Inzé of Ghent University in Belgium.

“Everybody hopes that the European Commission will reevaluate the entire situation so that this new technology can also be used in Europe,” Inzé said.

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