Where will the early promise of genetic editing take us?

Genetic editing as we know it today arose from a process referred to as CRISPR-Cas9. More than 10 years ago scientists discovered repetitive sequences of genetic code in bacteria. These sequences are part of the bacteria’s immune response to harmful organisms like bacteriophages. But for geneticists, understanding these repeating sequences and the spaces between them made it much easier to find, modify or turn off a specific piece of DNA in plants and animals.

Unlike the early transgenic GMOs, there is no foreign genetic material inserted into the DNA. It’s also much more inexpensive than transgenic processes and can be done without complicated or expensive lab equipment.  

So if it’s been around for over 10 years, where are all the miraculous CRISPR applications? There are dozens that are close to releasing and some of the more compelling developments for both agriculture and human health will be listed here. Many have slipped under the radar of mainstream and even farm media, but one CRISPR story received a lot of attention.

On the regulatory front, it’s no surprise that there are differing views on how gene-editing technology should be regulated for agriculture. Canada’s current approach is that gene-edited crops should face the same approval process as transgenic traits. The United States recently adopted a less rigorous approach and views gene-edited organisms as similar to traditionally bred ones, with faster results. We know that disparities in regulatory and approval processes can cause issues for trade, so monitoring how genetic editing of crops and livestock are viewed by our trading partners is important going forward. The rapid advances in gene editing will force all countries to continue to re-evaluate their regulatory approach.

Read the complete article at www.fcc.fac.ca.

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