Sunday, December 31, 2017

CRISPR 2.0 Not Your Father's GMOs - How CRISPR is different

CRISPR ISN’T ENOUGH ANY MORE. GET READY FOR GENE EDITING 2.0  - Wired "Usually, when we’ve referred to Crispr, we’ve really meant Crispr/Cas9—a riboprotein complex composed of a short strand of RNA and an efficient DNA-cutting enzyme. It did for biology and medicine what the Model T did for manufacturing and transportation; democratizing access to a revolutionary technology and disrupting the status quo in the process….But like the Model T, Crispr Classic is somewhat clunky, unreliable, and a bit dangerous. It can’t bind to just any place in the genome. It sometimes cuts in the wrong places. And it has no off-switch. If the Model T was prone to overheating, Crispr Classic is prone to overeating."

These are not your father's GMOs - MIT Technology Review - some good info in this article. For one thing it explains (indirectly) how CRISPR is different from previous GE food technologies both in terms of technique and application.

Due to the fact that it is so much like other 'unregulated' crop improvement techniques (like mutagenesis) the costs of bringing this to market are much less:

"It’s counting on that to cut at least half the 13 years and $130 million that companies have, on average, invested in order to create a new GMO and get it into farmers’ hands"

The applications are also ripe for making food healthier:

Marketing “healthier” food made from GMOs has been a taller order. But if gene-edited plants can avoid the stigma of GMOs, that could change.

But there are some criticisms, that seem unfounded and hypocritical:

"To the critics, any attempt to reclassify engineered plants as natural is a dangerous fiction. “If they don’t have to go through the regulatory requirements, then it is game on again for genetic modification in agriculture,” says Jim Thomas, head of a nonprofit called the ETC Group that lobbies on environmental issues. “That is the prize. They are constructing a definition of a GMO so that gene editing falls outside it....Some organic associations have already said such plants cannot carry that label, reasoning that they really are GMOs."

I am not sure anyone is constructing a definition of GMO that is any different than the one the organic food lobby applies to mutagenesis in their own certification.

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