Since the USDA has opted to call organisms modified with CRISPR technology genetically “optimized” rather than genetically “modified” (at least for the moment), is it possible that these new organisms won’t be labeled GMOs? Of course, there are other U.S. entities that have yet to weigh in (FDA, EPA). As we mentioned in a recent article, Monsanto will not be able to use gene-driving with its newly acquired CRISPR technology.
Indeed, a Harvard geneticist recently told Business Insider that CRISPR/Cas9’s agricultural applications are “a beautiful thing.”
Man, after all, must eat. It may not be a thing of beauty, but it sure is a necessity.
According to an article by Tara Duggan of the San Francisco Chronicle, dairy farmers on both sides of the aisle are angered by the increase in “Non-GMO” labeling being used on dairy products. The organic farmers, understandably, are concerned that such labeling will undermine the organic brand. Milk labeled “non-GMO” does not have to have been produced using sustainable practices, or in the absence of pesticides or other chemicals. The worry is that the public will give the non-GMO branding the same weight as “organic”, which is not at all the same thing.
On the other hand…
Conventional farmers are concerned that their product will be thought of as “Frankenfood”, even though there are no GMOs present in the milk itself. The genetically altered material does not find its way into the milk. And for that matter, GMO corn is only used as a supplemental feed for cows. For the most part, dairy cows are fed grass. The bottom line is that this is a marketing ploy, with no health benefits to anyone. In fact, cows which are fed non-GMO feed are likely to ingest more potent pesticides than their GMO-fed counterparts, due to the fact that the GMO food likely is produced with stronger pesticides (than the roundup used with GMO feed).
If you haven’t had the chance to check out the recent ammendment to the 1947 Agriculture act, here is a pdf: mandatory-labeling-bill. Recently, a version of a mushroom that was developed using the CRISPR technology was designated non-GMO. The recent amendment would appear to counter that decision however. The wording appears to include ALL genetically altered foods in it’s description of bioengineered foods:
‘‘(A) that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques; and ‘‘(B) for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.
CRISPR technology does not introduce foreign DNA into an organism. What it does is trigger mutations that exist within the genome already, essentially genetic what-ifs. This would satisfy item (B) in the above quote of the amendment, but NOT item (A) since it does use in-vitro recombinant techniques. However, the law also sets a timeline of 2 years for the Secretary of Agriculture to come up with a standard for disclosure concerning bioengineered foods, the amount of bioengineered material that must be present, etc. I think it’s fairly clear that CRISPR will be part of that list, but there may be some leeway.
Monsanto announced last week that it has licensed the use of CRISPR technology from The Broad Institute. The exciting technology will be used to further its seed business, which is committed to producing seed that has a better yield, or is more drought-resistant, or other desirable properties. There are 2 important caveats that come with the licensing. Continue reading “Monsanto Licenses CRISPR Technology”