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No increased risk: Genome editing in plant breeding

Interview with Professor Ralph Bock: Arguments from a scientific perspective against restrictive regulation of genome editing

Genome editing is a novel method for precisely modifying DNA. It is well established in basic molecular biology research. It can also make a significant contribution in applications such as plant breeding. Plant varieties bred with the aid of genome editing cannot be distinguished from conventionally bred varieties, if no foreign genes are introduced. Nor is their risk potential increased. Therefore, it does not make sense to restrictively regulate genome editing under EU genetic engineering law.

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From a scientific point of view, genome editing should not fall under the restrictive genetic engineering legislation of the European Union, as demanded by many critics. Of course, health and ecological risks must be taken into account in plant breeding. But even in the case of classical genetic engineering, the risk fears expressed by critics were exaggerated and have not been proven to be true in the long period of genetic engineering use. 

Genome editing goes beyond classical genetic engineering. It is much more precise. In many cases, plants bred with the aid of genome editing cannot be distinguished from conventionally bred plants. The ecological and health risks of genome-edited plants are not greater than the risks of plants from conventional breeding. There is no rational argument for a more restrictive legal regime. The risk fears of the critics of genome editing are scientifically untenable.

Genome editing in plant breeding brings considerable advantages: Precision and speed. It can help ensure global food security - an important sustainability goal - through new plant varieties. Many major agricultural nations, including the USA, Canada and Argentina, use genome editing already extensively in plant breeding. If the EU were to extend genetic engineering legislation to genome editing, it would disconnect itself from global developments. In the future, risk assessment should not be based on the methods, but exclusively on the product, i.e. the newly bred plant variety.

The entire interview with Professor Ralph Bock "No increased risk: Genome editing in plant breeding – Arguments from a scientific perspective against restrictive regulation" can be read here as PDF. The publication is only available in German.

 

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