‘Excessive’ regulations fuel unjustified consumer fear of CRISPR-edited crops, biologists warn

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

A Washington Post article, “The Future of Food,” discussed the methods we use to breed food crops but suffered from a shortcoming we see often: “pseudo-balance”—the seeking out of clueless commentators to contradict advocates of superior modern genetic modification techniques. We hate to break it to the author of the article….but….not every issue has two sides and benefits from point-counterpoint.

[Editor’s note: Read the original Washington Post article.]

The Post article quoted perennial genetic engineering skeptic Jennifer Kuzma as saying about gene editing, “We need a mandatory regulatory process: not just for scientific reasons, but for consumer and public confidence.” The latter claim, especially, is a fallacy: Thirty years of excessive regulation of genetic engineering has neither reduced public anxiety nor quieted the critics.

Related article:  Disease-fighting GMO mosquitoes are coming. Was EPA too quick to approve them?

If anything, these regulations have fanned public concerns about this safe, superior technology. As Barbara Keating-Edh, representing the consumer group Consumer Alert, testified before the U.S. National Biotechnology Policy Board in 1991:

For obvious reasons, the consumer views the technologies that are most regulated to be the least safe ones.  Heavy involvement by government, no matter how well intended, inevitably sends the wrong signals.  Rather than ensuring confidence, it raises suspicion and doubt.

And, it should be noted, the new gene editing techniques are an improvement over the decades-old recombinant DNA techniques in precision and predictability.

We have more than 20 years of data on commercialized GE crops.  Literally hundreds of analyses by governmental and professional groups have found that GE crops are as safe, or in some cases safer, than crops from other breeding methods.  Putting it another way, there is no evidence that the use of molecular genetic engineering techniques confers unique or incremental risks.

Read full, original article: The Brave Old World Of Genetic Engineering

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