Thursday, April 5, 2018

USDA Regulation of CRISPR-edited Crops

The USDA or the United States Department of Agriculture has restrictions on GMO crops that contain artificially inserted genes from other species. However, the USDA recently released a statement that they will not regulate plants that have been modified using genome editing. This includes the somewhat recent technology of CRISPR genome editing. CRISPR or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, these can be programmed to target specific stretches of genetic code and edit it at precise locations. The USDA did clarify that they will not oversee the use of these plants, as long as they could have been developed using traditional breeding methods, such as cross breeding. The only difference should be the speed at which the trait is introduced. It is unclear whether these special gene-edited plants will require special labeling once they hit the shelves; however, it seems that if it is a gene introduced that could naturally have been breed in then it would not.
This is shocking to me, not because the crops would pose any risk to human health but because governments love to regulate things. I don't really see the downside of regulating these crops but I suppose that if the genes could been introduced naturally then it makes sense that they would not be regulated. Very interesting though, I think there will be more backlash from this once these crops get closer to being on the market. I don't think a person without a background in science would really understand what they are doing so they probably will at least want the foods labeled.

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