Plant science panel

Genome editing – is it genetic modification?

Recent advances in genome editing techniques have made it possible to alter DNA sequences in living cells. What does this mean for plant science?

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Background

Plant science is on the threshold of another new development. Recent advances in genome editing techniques have made it possible to alter DNA sequences in living cells. Genome editing is more precise than conventional crop breeding methods or standard genetic engineering (transgenic or GM) methods. By editing only a few of the billions of nucleotides (the building blocks of genes) in the cells of plants, these new techniques might be the most effective way to get crops to grow better in harsh climates, resist pests or improve nutrition. Because the more precise the technique, the less of the genetic material is altered, so the lower the uncertainty about other effects on how the plant behaves.

It is unclear whether regulations for genetically modified organisms apply to plants modified by genome editing methods. Should these new techniques be treated the same way? Does this make them too expensive for the public sector? Can we decide anything before we even have plants to grow?

Did you Know?

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) released a position statement on 28th October 2014 on “new and emerging genetic techniques that have a potential to contribute to producing crops with improved performance”.

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Published:  28 October 2014