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January 22nd, 2018 / Alliance for Science, US

The European Union and Australia took steps this week toward easing the regulatory process around certain genetic engineering techniques.

In the EU, a legal opinion found that mutagenesis techniques are, in principle, exempt from the rules that govern genetically modified organisms (GMOs), though individual EU states can regulate their use. Meanwhile, regulators in Australia recommended reducing regulations around CRISPR and other new gene editing processes.

Neither mutagenesis nor gene editing typically entail the insertion of foreign DNA into a living organism, a highly regulated process known as transgenesis.

As Australia’s gene technology regulator Raj Bhula explained in an interview with ABC Australia:

“With gene editing you don’t always have to use genetic material from another organism, it is just editing the [existing] material within the organism. All of our regulatory frameworks and laws have been established based on people putting unrelated genetic material into another organism.

Whereas this process is just manipulation within the organism and not introducing anything foreign.”

It’s an argument that researchers, and increasingly regulators, have been making around the globe to press for GMO regulatory revisions that take into account new advances in the fields of biotechnology and synthetic biology. Read more