The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has already given non-regulated status to more to more than 21 gene edited crops engineered genetically with so-called genome editing techniques. This is according to new research done by Testbiotech. None of the applications registered at the USDA were referred for further more detailed assessment. What does this mean? Again, we are the human guinea pigs. Altering the DNA does not come without health risks?
Allan Bradley, geneticist from the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK explains his findings.
“We found that changes in the DNA have been seriously underestimated before now…
It’s not the first time scientists have raised alarm about the potential pitfalls of CRISPR.”
To investigate these kinds of possibilities further, Bradley and fellow researchers examined the effects of the technique on mouse stem cells and human retinal epithelial cells.
“My initial experiment used CRISPR/Cas9 as a tool to study gene activity, however it became clear that something unexpected was happening,” says the first author of the new study, PhD student Michael Kosicki…Once we realized the extent of the genetic rearrangements we studied it systematically, looking at different genes and different therapeutically relevant cell lines, and showed that the CRISPR/Cas9 effects held true.”
Those effects included large deletions or mutations that happened even several thousand DNA bases (aka kilobases) away from the target site where CRISPR/Cas9 was used to make the edit. Not only could such significant mutations of the DNA code have potentially harmful effects – by disrupting healthy gene and cellular functioning – but the researchers warn that standard DNA genotyping assays may not ordinarily pick up on these mistakes.
“In the worst-case scenario, if such mangled edits were introduced into humans in a CRISPR/Cas9 treatment, important genes might end up being switched on or off, which could make for potentially serious health consequences.”
The plant species and 1 mushroom that have been approved are pennycress, green foxtail, potatoes, camelina, alfalfa, maize (corn), rice, soybeans, tobacco, tomatoes, wheat and one mushroom.
Bottom line is that gene-edited plants that can have hundreds of unintended mutations, like turning on a gene for cancer or other diseases, will not be regulated by our USDA, and will not be labeled as genetically modified.
In the EU, all genetically engineered organisms must undergo a mandatory risk assessment. In the USA, on the other hand, there are no such legal requirements. There are nevertheless also stakeholders in the EU who want to market their products as quickly as possible. Their goal: plants and animals and related products developed with new genetic engineering techniques should be released without undergoing an approval process and sold without labeling.
If however the new plants are marketed without regulation or approval process, then neither farmers nor gardeners would know what he/she is actually cultivating. The plants could also be crossed and combined with others, without combinatorial effects being investigated in detail. Consumers would lose their freedom of choice since they would no longer be able to distinguish whether the products were genetically modified or not. Even the authorities would not know which plants were imported from which countries, and what they would have to look for if there was in fact harm to people or the environment.
I recently did a survey on Facebook to see how many people knew about CRISPR or gene-editing technology and not many knew about it or had even heard about this technology. It’s time we start talking about, write to our representatives and create a grass roots movement to raise awareness and get this technology stopped before it it too late. Also, refer to my article on CRISPR Cas9 technology here.
Please share with everyone you know. This technology has some very serious consequences!