Journal of Pharmaceutical Research on Advanced Chemistry

(for innovative research)


Dating from 2001, the rules cover situations where crops are altered in ways that do not occur naturally: for example, when a bacterial gene is introduced into a crop plant for producing an insecticide. Public concern about ‘Franken-foods’ and opposition by some vociferous environmental groups, drove widespread opposition to GMOs, often based on fear rather than science.

In 2010, the European Commission concluded that GMOs were not more risky than conventionally bred crops. However, even when crops pass strict regulatory criteria, EU countries can ban them. This approach has frustrated plant geneticists and crop breeders; currently the only commercial GM crop grown at a large scale in Europe is a BT insecticide maize grown in Spain.

CRISPR can edit DNA in a way similar to certain conventional breeding strategies that rely on mutations caused by chemicals or radiation. These plants are then tested for desirable traits, such as higher yields.

In this light, gene editing achieves the same outcome – mutated plants – as techniques applied for decades. However, gene editing is an extremely powerful tool.

It is possible to edit in the DNA of another species to a crop or replace a gene, effectively creating a GMO-like organism. A case-by-case assessment seems a sensible approach.

In March, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it has no plans to regulate genome editing when used to produce new plant varieties that are indistinguishable from those bred through traditional breeding methods.

Yes. In 2016, CRISPR was used to grow a white button mushroom to resist browning by researchers at Penn State University, US. It got a green light from the USDA. The same year, DuPont announced plans to market a new type of waxy hybrid corn developed using CRISPR.

In the UK, Rothamsted Research began a field trial this summer with camelina that had a gene removed using CRISPR to alter the mix of its oils.UK regulators viewed the plants as genetically indistinguishable from those generated by traditional mutagenesis. Undisclosed research is likely happening in industry, though the fuzziness regards the ownership of patents around Crispr-Cas9 may be stymying the commercialisation of such products.

The US takes a liberal approach to gene editing and there are hundreds of mutagenized crops available. It now appears the EU is unlikely to follow suit. The introduction of new genes or DNA sequence into an organism is also likely to be a thorny issue for regulators, and it remains to be seen how these will be viewed.