The USDA has inexplicably decided not to regulate the Crispr gene editing technique for food, and a slew of young companies are working around the clock to take advantage of this business-friendly approach and vie for dominance in the gene-edited crop sphere.
Gene editing technology is used to target certain genes within an organism, disrupting the ones that are associated with undesirable characteristics or changing them in a positive way. It might sound a little better than traditional genetic modification, which involves the transference of a gene from one type of organism to another, but the truth remains that we simply don’t know what the long-term effects of this approach and their impact on human health could be.
Nevertheless, its relative newness means the products it yields haven’t yet garnered unflattering nicknames like “Frankenfood” – and more importantly, the USDA’s lack of regulation means it’s a lot faster and cheaper to bring its products to market. (See USDAwatch.com for more coverage.)
The traditional genetically modified crop could cost $150 million to develop and market; that cost can be slashed by up to 90 percent with gene editing. And while genetically modified crops generally take 12 years to move from development to commercialization in the U.S., a gene-edited crop can accomplish the same in just five years.
U.S., EU regulators view Crispr gene editing differently
The USDA has said that none of the 23 inquiries it has fielded about whether such crops need regulation have met its criteria for oversight, with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue claiming that the process introduces characteristics it considers “indistinguishable” from the type created in traditional plant breeding.
In contrast, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled last month that gene editing is subject to the same regulations as genetically modified crops, making it illegal for commercial crops to be grown and limiting its use to research….
Given the state of the economy and the expense of eating, this should fit right in with any thrifty family’s budget.
Uhm, where exactly is the “academic” input into all this? Do we even have universities any more? Has the money corrupted every last corner of human endeavor? Are scientists now like doctors, incapable of embarrassment?