5 Things You Need to Know about Gene Editing

5 Things You Need to Know about Gene Editing

January 9, 2019
Annette Maggi
Retail Industry Insights

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Here are five things you need to know about gene editing.

  1. What is gene editing? In gene editing, no foreign DNA is introduced into the seed or plant.  Gene’s native to the plant can be turned on or off, or a new trait introduced using DNA native to the plant.  CRISPR, which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, is one type of gene editing that is getting much attention as it is inexpensive to use compared to previous methods.
  2. What food products are gene edited?  The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests more than 20 products are in process with gene editing.  The first to hit the market will likely be a canola oil modified to have a healthier fat profile.  Others being worked on include cocoa and banana plants that are immune to specific viruses and funguses, a naturally decaffeinated coffee bean, mushrooms that don’t brown, and corn and rice that are more drought tolerant.
  3. How are gene edited foods regulated in the U.S.?  As of March of 2018, USDA does not regulate nor have any plans to regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques.  This includes new methods, such as gene editing.  They see this and other technologies as ways to expand traditional plant breeding tools and introduce new plant traits more quickly and precisely, potentially saving years or even decades in bringing needed new varieties to farmers. In early 2017, FDA opened a request for comment, seeking public input to help inform its regulatory approach to human and animal foods derived from plants produced using genome editing.
  4. How are other countries regulating gene editing? Many countries are still evaluating the technology and how they will regulate it.  In July of 2018, the European Union’s high court indicated they will regulate gene-edited plants in the same manner as bioengineered foods.
  5. Is gene editing the same as GMO?  U.S. federal regulators see these technologies different as in genetically modified organisms, foreign DNA is inserted into the native DNA of the plant.  In gene editing, no foreign DNA is introduced into the plant.