Should CRISPR gene-edited organisms have different regulations than "GMOs"?

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Offline evan_au

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At present there are some tough hurdles in the way of releasing Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs) for human consumption, especially in Europe.

Some applications of CRISPR seem to carry a different level of risk. Should it bear the same regulatory burden?

The current regulations are based on the premise that traditional GMOs can have:
  • A totally "foreign" protein, like Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP, from jellyfish) added as a marker. This is expressed in addition to the desired change.
  • The desired change is sometimes a protein from a totally different species or organism
  • Often, a whole new protein is added to a random place in the DNA of the organism
  • Sometimes, a virus is used to ferry the new gene into the cell. Some remnants of the virus may remain
  • To ensure this protein is expressed, an artificial "promoter" is added. This is outside normal cellular controls.

In contrast, CRISPR changes can use:
  • The original gene, in its original location in the DNA
  • Expression controlled by the normal cellular feedback mechanisms
  • Insertion is done by the cell's own immune system, so it leaves no "foreign" remnants in the cell
  • It is possible to confirm the presence of the desired sequence by reading the DNA, rather than by inserting GFP.
  • It is possible to substitute specific DNA letters by variants seen in nature, in the same species
  • ...Although it is possible to insert sequences that noone has observed in the wild.
  • ...And also sequences that come from quite different species

There is some possible overlap between the application of CRISPR and traditional genetic modification . But is the application and risk sufficiently different to make a distinction in the regulations?


Offline chiralSPO

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In my opinion, the regulations on GMO are too restrictive, the definitions too broad, and the reasoning too uninformed.

I think CRISPR holds many potential advantages over the older techniques, but ultimately I doubt that the regulating bodies (and certainly not the politicians or public) will see any difference between the approaches.

I don't think people in general understand what genetic modification is, or how often it occurs naturally, or how long humans have been doing it by conventional means. Pretty much everything we eat these days is genetically modified by centuries or millennia of breeding. We also happen to have been genetically modified by viruses a few hundred thousand years ago, in such a way that made us what we are today!

I am a chemist, and have done my best to stay away from biology, but I really think that synthetic biology will be able to address several issues of public health and sustainability in ways that synthetic chemistry could never dream of accomplishing. There will also be potential (and realized) problems that would not have arisen from a chemical approach.


Offline syhprum

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It is a tragedy that two technologies that would yield great good for mankind are held back by ill informed prejudice  I refer of course GMO and nuclear power.