Agricultural sustainability means different things from country to country. What role is there for technology and gene editing?

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Credit: Stefen Chow
Credit: Stefen Chow

[A] much-anticipated study displays a welcome sense by the [European] Commission of the reality facing the global drive to sustainable food production. It comes against a decades-long European landscape of rejection of, if not hostility to, anything linked to food and genetic engineering. 

However, the playing field has been mapped out in a way that recognises what is happening across the world. Many countries are looking to gene editing to improve plant breeding through editing a plant’s own DNA without the insertion of external genes such as those used in genetic modification. As such, these countries are not seeking to regulate gene editing in the manner applied to genetically modified crops.

North and South America take a ‘light’ regulatory approach to gene editing… In 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finalised a rule which may exempt (i.e., does not regulate) some gene-edited plants from existing U.S. GMO regulations. 

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Despite differences in the adoption of some production technologies, the U.S. and the EU have much in common on sustainable food objectives. The monumental challenge for both sides and the rest of the world, is how to grow more food on less land, using fewer inputs, respecting water quality and quantity, improving soil health and working to mitigate climate change.

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