business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times this morning has a story about how "a new generation of crops known as gene-edited rather than genetically modified is coming to the market. Created through new tools that snip and tweak DNA at precise locations, they, at least for now, largely fall outside of current regulations.

"Unlike older methods of engineering genes, these techniques, like Crispr, so far have generally not been used to add genes from other organisms into the plants."

There's one other wrinkle to this new food technology: "You may have no idea that something is different, because there may be no mention on the labeling even after a law passed by Congress last year to disclose genetically modified ingredients takes effect," because it the ingredients have not been technically modified.

Some examples of what companies are doing with the new technology:

"Calyxt, a subsidiary of Cellectis doing the gene-edited food, is also developing new versions of wheat including one with greater resistance to fungal diseases, another lower in carbohydrates and higher in dietary fibers ... Other companies also developing gene-edited crops including DuPont Pioneer, which has used the technology for a new variety of waxy corn, used most commonly not for food but for starch in adhesives. Scientists at Pennsylvania State University have used Crispr to create mushrooms that do not turn brown as quickly."

The Times reports that "federal agencies have not yet said how they intend to regulate gene-edited foods, and the incoming Trump administration, while criticizing overregulation in general, has not weighed in.

"Other parts of the world are also considering whether to regulate gene-edited foods and how to do so. In Europe, where many countries have banned the cultivation of G.M.O.s, the European Commission has created a scientific panel to study the issue, with debate resuming this year."
KC's View:
But, of course, it isn't all that simple. There remain a number of people who believe that we do not know nearly enough about these technologies to allow them to be used in a creation of food products that are not labeled as such. It seems to me that there are some obvious advantages to such products, though it also seems clear to me that if there are disadvantages, they will not be seen as early and obviously.

I'm not smart enough to understand all the science here. I'm smart enough to believe that one should never be knee-jerk negative in one's response to scientific advancement. And I think that transparency ought to be a fundamental value here.