Genome Editing in Food and Farming: Risks and unexpected consequences

J. Cotter and D. Perls,  Canadian Biotechnology Action Network,  2020.

In this report, we provide an overview of genome editing techniques being explored in agriculture, and the range of potential unexpected effects that can arise from them. The report draws on recent scientific publications, in a rapidly evolving field of research. The purpose of providing this information is to encourage broad public discussion about the potential implications of using genetic engineering, and specifically the new techniques of genome editing, in food and farming, and the ways in which decisions about the use of the technology should be made.

Widespread excitement over new genetic engineering techniques called “genome editing” or “gene editing”, and the wide-ranging promises for their applications, mirrors those that accompanied the first-generation of genetic engineering. As with earlier genetic engineering, genome editing techniques are moving towards commercial application even while our knowledge of the mechanisms that underlie how genomes work remains incomplete. Scientist Jennifer Doudna, discussing the genome editing technique CRISPR that she codeveloped, called it “a transformative genome engineering technology”2  and believes the technique gives us the ability to “rewrite the code of life” and control evolution.3  At the same time, she says that the main mechanism that is triggered to accomplish these changes (cell repair) is “a process we don’t fully understand…sort of magic happens, this is where the editing happens.


More related to this:

Gene drive organisms: What Africa should know about actors, motives and threats to biodiversity and food systems

Sterile Insect Techniques, GE mosquitoes and gene drives

B chromosomes in plants: escapees from the A chromosome genome?

Governing extinction in the era of gene editing

Genome Editing 2020: Ethics and Human Rights in Germline Editing in Humans and Gene Drives in Mosquitoes