Gene-edited crops are unregulated in the U.S. raising concerns about unintended consequences of the GMO technology

By vast

Published: October 4, 2018

Category: Extreme Genetic Engineering, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter

Calyxt, a biotechnology company focusing on creating gene-edited crops, recently announced an agreement with American Natural Processors (ANP), an Iowa-based company that processes organic and non-GMO oils, flours, and meals, to crush Calyxt’s high oleic soybean oil.

The high-oleic, low-saturated fat oil from this new variety of soybeans is designed to eliminate the need for hydrogenation, a process that improves heat stability and shelf life of conventional soybean oil.

Products made from Calyxt’s GMO soybeans could start hitting the market this year or in 2019.

ANP’s move seems odd since the company has focused on processing organic and non-GMO oils, flours, and meals. ANP operates mostly non-GMO soybean processing plants in Cherokee, Iowa, where it has operated for nearly two decades, working with some of the largest consumer packaged goods companies in the U.S.

In mid-2015, Calyxt says it received a letter from the USDA confirming that the Company’s high-oleic soybean variety is non-regulated, as the product contains no foreign DNA.

But, the Non-GMO Project has said that it won’t verify products from gene editing as being non-GMO, and in 2016 the National Organic Standards Board unanimously adopted a recommendation clarifying that new genetic engineering techniques are not permitted in organic production. The European Union Court of Justice recently ruled that all new types of genetic engineering techniques, including gene editing, need to be regulated as GMOs.

Crops developed using CRISPR gene editing techniques like Calyxt’s soybean are being grown in the U.S. with no regulation.

There are some 23 gene-edited crops, low-gluten wheat and non-browning mushrooms are among them. But enthusiasm is tempered by concerns about safety and possible off-target effects. Glitches can occur with gene editing—off-target edits or unintended changes to the plant’s DNA, introducing potential for toxins, allergens, or disease exposure to the plant.

“We need a mandatory regulatory process: not just for scientific reasons, but for consumer and public confidence,” said Jennifer Kuzma, professor at North Carolina State University.

Sources: Minneapolis Star Tribune, Washington Post

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