Gene Editing – Really Scary Technology?

 What is all the fuss about CRISPR-Cas9 technology and gene editing? Genome editing (also called gene editing) is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA. These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome. Several approaches to genome editing have been developed. A recent one is known as CRISPR-Cas9, which is short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9. The CRISPR-Cas9 system has generated a lot of excitement in the scientific community because it is faster, cheaper, more accurate, and more efficient than other existing genome editing methods.

Proponents of this technology claim the use of CRISPR/Cas9 carries enormous possibilities to further advance the human health and well-being, which is the reason why this system is being researched in a myriad of different human diseases – including cancer and HIV/AIDS infections.

 Sounds good huh? But wait, let’s really explore what this means.

Research shows many unforeseen mutations from CRISPR/Cas9 in the DNA at the genome editing target site. To investigate this further the researchers carried out a full systematic study in both mouse and human cells and discovered that CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations, but at a greater distance from the target site. The researchers found many of the cells had large genetic rearrangements such as DNA deletions and insertions. These could lead to important genes being switched on or off, which could have major implications for CRISPR/Cas9 use in therapies. In addition, some of these changes were too far away from the target site to be seen with standard genotyping methods.

In essence, this technology is untested, could have random effects, i.e., turning on a gene you don’t want like a gene for cancer or turning off a gene that is beneficial.

Food Safety Issues

 London-based molecular biologist Dr Michael Antoniou said,

“The main point to bear in mind about CRISPR is that all events after the CRISPR has cut the DNA occur independently of the CRISPR and are due to the cell’s innate DNA repair machinery. Thus it doesn’t matter how much you tweak the CRISPR to make it more ‘specific’ – you’ll be faced with the same spectrum of downstream problems that are inherent to the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) DNA repair system.

“These findings also do not bode well for the other genome editing tools (TALENs, ZFNs), as presumably the same things will happen after they too have produced a double strand DNA break and the NHEJ repair pathway kicks in.

“In addition, these findings suggest that we need to re-visit/re-evaluate the outcomes from NHEJ DNA repair in general. Do the outcomes reported in this latest study with CRISPR-generated double strand breaks also occur when the DNA is cut by other means, e.g. radiation or mutagenic chemicals? Or do they occur only when double strand breaks are brought about by editing tools?”

Dr Antoniou pointed out that some of our food plants have been produced through the older methods of radiation- or chemical-induced mutagenesis and if similar genetic damage to that seen when using CRISPR also occurs with the older methods, this could have implications for the food safety of those plants.

 This random and untested technology is already being used. There is already a non-browning apple and a non-bruising russet potato on the market.  More is on its way to your supermarket in the near future and the public will basically be unaware of it? In an article in the Daily Mail on November 14 reported:

“The next generation of biotech food is headed for the grocery aisles, and first up may be salad dressings or granola bars made with soybean oil genetically tweaked to be good for your heart.

By early next year, the first foods from plants or animals that had their DNA ‘edited’ are expected to begin selling.

It’s a different technology than today’s controversial ‘genetically modified’ foods, more like faster breeding that promises to boost nutrition, spur crop growth, and make farm animals hardier and fruits and vegetables last longer…”

They make it sound wonderful, don’t they? It is an untested and unsafe technology and most of the public isn’t even aware of it. Here are a few of the possible ways they propose to use this technology in your food:

  • Wheat with triple the usual fiber, or that’s low in gluten
  • Mushrooms that don’t brown
  • Better-producing tomatoes
  • Drought-tolerant corn
  • Rice that no longer absorbs soil pollution as it grows
  • Dairy cows that don’t need to undergo painful de-horning
  • Pigs immune to a dangerous virus that can sweep through herds
  • Oranges resistant to the disease that is destroying crops in Florida 
  • Fungus-resistant bananas 

Some of the above may sound beneficial but at what cost to human health? This technology has been introduced to the public and we are the human guinea pigs. Does this sound familiar? In my opinion, there needs to be a huge uproar from the public about this!

Of course, gene-editing companies are attacking the research showing the unintended consequences of this technology as reported by GMWatch.  These tactics are not new to us and quite predictable. That being said, the public needs to be aware and take action to stop this technology before it is too late.

 How can you protect yourself and your family? Eat organic. The New York Times recently published an article which showed overwhelming research that eating organci reduces your risk of cancer, some cancers up to 86%.  Continue to educate yourself and others about GMOs and glyphosate.  Write to your representatives and tell them you do not want this CRISPR technology. Lastly, education is key.  Please share this article with ones that do not know so that they too can make wise choices for their health and their family’s health.




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