Regulating genome-edited crops that (according to current regulations) aren't GMOs

February 25, 2015

A survey of rice, wheat, barley, fruit, and vegetable crops found that most mutants created by advanced genetic engineering techniques may be out of the scope of current genetically modified organism (GMO) regulations. In a review of these findings, published in the February 25 issue of the Cell Press journal Trends in Plant Science, two bioethicists from Hokkaido University propose new regulatory models for genome-edited crops and declare a call to action for clarifying the social issues associated with such genetically engineered crops.

"Modern genome editing technology has allowed for far more efficient gene modification, potentially impacting future agriculture," says Tetsuya Ishii, PhD, of Hokkaido University's Office of Health and Safety. "However, genome editing raises a regulatory issue by creating indistinct boundaries in GMO regulations because the advanced genetic engineering can, without introducing new genetic material, make a gene modification which is similar to a naturally occurring mutation."

Under current regulations, a GMO is a living organism that has been altered by a novel combination of genetic material, including the introduction of a transgene. Advanced genetic engineering technologies, including ZFN, TALEN, and CRISPR/Cas9, raise regulatory issues because they don't require transgenes to make alterations to the genome. They can simply pluck out a short DNA sequence or add a mutation to an existing gene.

"Genome editing technology is advancing rapidly; therefore it is timely to review the regulatory system for plant breeding by genome editing," says Dr. Ishii. "Moreover, we need to clarify the differences between older genetic engineering techniques and modern genome editing, and shed light on various issues towards social acceptance of genome edited crops."

In their study, Dr. Ishii and a member of his research staff, Motoko Araki, present four regulatory models in order to resolve the indistinct regulatory boundaries that genome editing has created in GMO regulations. They propose that the most stringent regulation (in which most of the mutants are subject to the regulations, whereas only a portion of deletion and insertion mutants fall outside the regulations) should be initially adopted and gradually relaxed because the cultivation and food consumption of genome-edited crops is likely to increase in the near future.

While policy-level discussions about the regulations of genome-edited organisms are slowly taking place around the world, according to Dr. Ishii, his study will serve as a basis for the conversation with regulatory agencies in the world as well as the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.
-end-
Trends in Plant Science, Araki, M. and Ishii, T.: "Towards social acceptance of plant breeding by genome-editing"

Trends in Plant Science (TiPS), published by Cell Press, is a monthly review journal that features broad coverage of basic plant science, from molecular biology through to ecology. Aimed at researchers, students, and teachers, its articles are authoritative and written by both leaders in the field and rising stars. For more information, please visit http://www.cell.com/trends/plant-science. To receive media alerts for TiPS or other Cell Press journals, please contact press@cell.com.

Cell Press

Related Genome Articles from Brightsurf:

Genome evolution goes digital
Dr. Alan Herbert from InsideOutBio describes ground-breaking research in a paper published online by Royal Society Open Science.

Breakthrough in genome visualization
Kadir Dede and Dr. Enno Ohlebusch at Ulm University in Germany have devised a method for constructing pan-genome subgraphs at different granularities without having to wait hours and days on end for the software to process the entire genome.

Sturgeon genome sequenced
Sturgeons lived on earth already 300 million years ago and yet their external appearance seems to have undergone very little change.

A sea monster's genome
The giant squid is an elusive giant, but its secrets are about to be revealed.

Deciphering the walnut genome
New research could provide a major boost to the state's growing $1.6 billion walnut industry by making it easier to breed walnut trees better equipped to combat the soil-borne pathogens that now plague many of California's 4,800 growers.

Illuminating the genome
Development of a new molecular visualisation method, RNA-guided endonuclease -- in situ labelling (RGEN-ISL) for the CRISPR/Cas9-mediated labelling of genomic sequences in nuclei and chromosomes.

A genome under influence
References form the basis of our comprehension of the world: they enable us to measure the height of our children or the efficiency of a drug.

How a virus destabilizes the genome
New insights into how Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) induces genome instability and promotes cell proliferation could lead to the development of novel antiviral therapies for KSHV-associated cancers, according to a study published Sept.

Better genome editing
Reich Group researchers develop a more efficient and precise method of in-cell genome editing.

Unlocking the genome
A team led by Prof. Stein Aerts (VIB-KU Leuven) uncovers how access to relevant DNA regions is orchestrated in epithelial cells.

Read More: Genome News and Genome Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.