Publication: Revisiting risk governance of GM plants: The need to consider new and emerging gene-editing techniques


In a recent publication in Frontiers researchers at GenØk discuss the potential challenges new and emerging gene-editing techniques pose to established risk governance strategies. New and emerging gene-editing techniques make it possible to target specific genes in the genome of plants with greater speed and specificity than previously possible. Of major relevance for plant breeding, regulators and scientists are discussing how to regulate products developed using these gene-editing techniques. Should one adopt or adapt the current framework for GMO risk governance in evaluating the impacts of gene-edited plants, and derived products? The authors focus on regulatory requirements for assessing health and environmental risks as established under the EU Directives, and elaborate how biosafety research can strengthen risk assessment and management. Knowledge gaps are highlighted—for example related to target and off-target effects of intervention in plant genomes—and these gaps are related to risk assessments of gene-edited organisms. There are also challenges with traceability and monitoring of products developed using these new techniques. In addition, it is pointed out that risk assessment and management of genetically modified (GM) plants is constrained by limitations in transparency regarding public disclosure related to product development. Resolving these and related aspects with the current framework will involve addressing many subjective, value-laden positions, for example how to specify protection goals through ecosystem service approaches. The authors therefore propose that the framework of responsible research and innovation (RRI) offers a useful way to improve GM risk governance research and practice for biosafety of genome-edited crops.

Authors: Agapito, S. T., Okoli, A. S. Bernstein, M. J., Wikmark, O-G., Myhr, A. I.

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Front. Plant Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fpls.2018.01874. This article is part of the research topic Plant Genome Editing – Policies and Governance