Gene editing is touted as a promising new way of altering the DNA of plants or animals to speed their growth, enhance flavor, extend shelf life or combat viruses. But those who see it as a key component of agriculture’s future want to make sure that the regulations written for it do not stifle its promise.
“What we need to have is an environment where the regulation fits with the risk, and regulation fits with the application” of the technology, says Kevin Folta, professor and chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. “Let’s not bottleneck innovation.”
New methods such as CRISPR may allow plant breeders to avoid the regulatory bottlenecks. Harry Klee, a colleague of Folta’s at the University of Florida who is working to improve the taste of tomatoes, says he’s using CRISPR instead of “traditional genetic engineering” that uses foreign DNA.
“We are hopeful that a clean gene-edited mutation with no foreign DNA that is equivalent to a natural mutation will be free and clear of regulations,” he said in an email. “Being able to take such a mutation and introduce it widely into many elite breeding lines without the need for extensive backcrossing is a potential game changer in breeding programs.” Read more