Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Propose New Approach for Regulating Genetically Engineered Crops

September 7, 2022

Researchers, through a Policy Forum article published in Science, are calling for a new approach to regulating genetically engineered (GE) crops. The researchers argue that current approaches for triggering safety testing vary dramatically among countries and generally lack scientific merit, particularly as advances in crop breeding have blurred the lines between conventional breeding and genetic engineering.

The article asserts that a more effective framework would examine the specific new characteristics of the crop itself by using “-omics” approaches rather than focusing on the methods and processes behind the creation of a GE crop. Genomics can be used to scan new crop varieties for unexpected DNA changes, while additional “-omics” methods such as transcriptomics, proteomics, epigenomics, and metabolomics test for other changes to the molecular composition of plants. These methods can be used like a fingerprint to determine whether the product from a new variety is “substantially equivalent” to products already being produced by existing varieties.

Fred Gould, University Distinguished Professor at North Carolina State University and the corresponding author of the article said that the approaches used right now – which differ among governments – lack scientific rigor. “The size of the change made to a product and the origin of the DNA have little relationship with the results of that change; changing one base pair of DNA in a crop with 2.5 billion base pairs, like corn, can make a substantial difference,” he added. Gould also said that the “-omics” approaches, if used appropriately, would not increase the cost of regulation, as most new varieties would not trigger a need for regulation.

For more details, read the article in NC State University News.

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