Companies that claim gene editing is precise and predictable must demonstrate it through detailed analysis, says a scientist
We recently sent out an article by Andrew Pollack in the New York Times, titled "By ‘editing’ plant genes, companies avoid regulation". It was about the fact that GMO companies are developing GM crops using techniques that either are outside the jurisdiction of the US regulatory agencies or use new methods — like “genome editing” — that were not envisioned when the regulations were created and thus escape them.
A biotech scientist who wishes to remain anonymous commented on this story:
"Genome editing techniques must be recognised as the GM procedures that they are, so that they are covered by existing GMO regulations, where they exist. Currently they are falling outside the already minimal regulatory system in the USA and Europe is debating how and even whether to regulate them under its GMO laws.
"I challenge ANY genome editing crop development company to conduct a thorough molecular profiling 'omics' analysis comparing their edited crop with the non-GM parent and come to the conclusion that it is substantially equivalent. It will almost certainly be markedly different.
"The genome editing companies and some academic scientists are showing naivety at best and blatant narrow mindedness at worse in believing their 'targeted' genome alterations are predictable in outcome. It shows a lack of understanding of the complex networks that are gene, protein and biochemical reactions. In the absence of proper molecular analysis, they can make claims about precision and predictably, but they should be challenged to publish the data to prove it.
"In genome editing gene therapy research, the researchers have to show that there are no off-target effects of their approach as part of pre-clinical development. Why should the genome editing crop developers get away with not doing this? It is exactly the same technology."