London (21.05.17) – Consideration on whether and how to regulate gene-editing – of plants, animals and humans – is a lively topic of discussion around the world and we have had earlier occasion to make reference to the discussions (1-3).

One major issue is whether regulating gene-editing of crop plants should follow the same sort of restrictive approach as is widely taken towards GM. And one of issues (for some people) about GM is that it is an “unnatural process” (whatever that might be) involving the fearful concept of moving genes between “species” and thus introducing a “foreign” gene into the recipient. Whatever “foreign” might signify in a the field of genetics.

While other governments ponder and procrastinate, the Israeli National Committee for Transgenic Plants has decided that that the development of plants through gene editing will be subject to regulations according to the definitions and guidelines of the Seed Act (genetically engineered plants and organisms) - 2005, whereby growing of the progeny of these plants will not be subject to these regulations as long as the applicants meet the determined criteria ensuring that foreign DNA sequences (our italics) were not incorporated into plant genome.

The Plant Protection Services Administration gave the validation decision by which the progeny of plants that have undergone gene editing utilizing CRISPR / CAS9 will not be considered GMO or transgenic plants. Their cultivation will accordingly not be subject to the Seed Act ((Genetically Modified Plants and Organisms) – 2005 (4).

The Israeli decision again takes account of there being no insertion and/or incorporation of foreign DNA into the genome of the plant and so such procedures do not fall in the category of transgenic plants.

Sources:

1. Arwyddion o lithro? CropGen (21.02.15) (http://www.cropgen.org/article_562.html)

2. Modifying crops: six techniques presently in use. CropGen (11.08.15) (http://www.cropgen.org/article_594.html)

3. Genome editing. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology No. 541 (Nov. 2016) (http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/POST-PN-0541/POST-PN-0541.pdf)

4. Israel: Gene edited plants will not be regulated. Floral Daily (19.04.17) (http://www.floraldaily.com/article/9741/Israel-Gene-edited-plants-will-not-be-regulated)

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  Whether and how to regulate gene editing