Crispr gene “edited” food crops the new wave of GMOs… are they safer
or just as dangerous?
-by Isabelle Z.
A growing segment of the public has made it clear that they do not want to consume
GMOs, and you only need to look at the labels touting the non-GMO status of a growing number of foods in the grocery store to see evidence of just how much the masses have awakened to the dangers of
Now, the food industry has found a new way to cut corners, and they’re trying to
convince people that this type of genetic editing is somehow a better alternative to the current GMOs.
It’s certainly better for their bottom line, as the costs for developing and
marketing the food that results from gene editing are reported to be as much as 90 percent lower than those of traditional genetically modified crops.
One of the more popular approaches to gene editing is CRISPR, which involves
transferring an enzyme and RNA molecule into a crop cell. The RNA then finds the targeted DNA strands and binds to them, at which point the enzyme causes a break in the DNA of the cell; the cell then
repairs the DNA in a way that alters the gene – if everything goes according to plan – but what happens to those who eat the resultant foods is anybody’s guess.
Biotech firms are hopeful the technology will avoid the negative labels that
traditional genetically modified crops have attracted – Frankenfood, anyone? –
and they’re hoping that people can be convinced that this approach is somehow different. However, it remains to be seen just how accepting the public and regulators will be.
While the USDA says that gene-edited crops do not meet their criteria for oversight
right now, the Court of Justice of the European Union has said that the technique will indeed be subject to their regulations that apply to genetically modified crops. This ruling means that gene
editing in Europe will be limited to research; growing commercial crops this way will be illegal there.
It will also be difficult to convince the public the method is safe. Changing the DNA
of crops could create undesirable changes in the food supply, and it is unlikely to be embraced by those who are opposed to genetically modified crops.
Agribusinesses are well aware of this fact, with Cargill’s Food Safety Vice President
Randal Giroux admitting that public acceptance is an uncertainty. He said: “We really do want to see gene-editing evolve in the marketplace. We’re watching to see how consumers adopt these products
and react to these products.”