Posted: 18 Nov 2018 09:01 pm
WASHINGTON (AP) – The next generation of biotech foods is aimed at grocery stores and, first, salad dressings or granola bars are made with soybean so genetically engineered it has been adjusted that it is good for your heart.
Early next year, the first foods of plants or animals whose DNA has been "processed" are expected to be sold. This is a different technology than today's controversial "genetically modified" foods, more like faster breeding that boosts nutrition, stimulates crop growth, hardens farm animals and keeps fruit and vegetables longer.
The US National Academy of Sciences has stated that the processing of genes is one of the breakthroughs needed to improve food production so that the world can feed billions of people in a changing climate. Governments, however, are struggling to regulate this powerful new instrument. And after years of confusion and resentment, will shoppers accept genetically modified food or view it as a disguised GMO?
"When the consumer sees the benefits, I believe he accepts the products and cares less about the technology," said Dan Voytas, a professor at the University of Minnesota and chief science officer for Calyxt Inc., who worked on soybeans, to make the oil healthy.
Researchers are pursuing more ambitious changes: wheat with three times the amount of common fiber, or that is low in gluten. Mushrooms that do not brown and produce tomatoes better. Drought-tolerant corn and rice, which no longer absorb soil pollution as it grows. Dairy cows that do not have to undergo painful dehorning, and pigs that are immune to a dangerous virus that can be swept by herds.
Scientists even hope that the cultivation of genes could protect the species from the destruction of diseases such as citrus fruit. a hitherto unstoppable infection that destroys Florida's famous oranges.
First, they must find genes that could make a new generation of trees immune.
"If we can handle the gene, we can easily change the DNA sequence. By one or two letters, we could possibly defeat this disease," said Fred Gmitter, a geneticist at the University of Florida's Citrus Research and Education Center examined sick trees in a grove near Fort Meade. [1
Genetically modified or edited, what's the difference?
For a long time, farmers have genetically modified crops and animals by deliberately breeding to obtain progeny with specific traits. It is time consuming and can make compromises. For example, modern tomatoes are bigger than their pea-sized wild ancestors, but generations of crossbreeding have made them brittle and altered their nutrients.
GMOs or genetically modified organisms are plants or animals mixed with DNA from another species to introduce a specific trait – meaning that they are "transgenic". Most notable are corn and soybeans mixed with bacterial genes for pest or weedkiller resistance.
Despite the international scientific consensus that GMOs are safe to eat, some people remain cautious and at risk of causing herbicide-resistant weeds
Now, gene-editing tools such as CRISPR and TALENs are promising food more precisely and cheaper to change, without necessarily having to add foreign DNA. Instead, they behave like molecular scissors to alter the letters of an organism's own genetic alphabet.
The technology can insert new DNA, but most of the products under development shut down a gene, says Professor Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes of the University of Missouri. 19659003] These new calyx soybeans? Voytas & # 39; team has inactivated two genes so that the beans without heart-damaging trans fat produce oil and share the famous health profile of olive oil without its distinctive flavor.
The hornless calves? Most dairy Holsteins grow horns that are removed for the safety of farmers and other cows. Recombinetics Inc. exchanged part of the gene that encourages dairy cows to breed horns with the DNA instructions of naturally polled Angus cattle.
"Precision breeding," explains animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam of the University of California, Davis. "This will not replace traditional breeding," but it makes it easier to add another trait.
Rules are not clear
The Department of Agriculture says that no additional rules are needed for "plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding". This clears the way for two dozen genetically modified crops so far.
By contrast, the Food and Drug Administration proposed stricter drug-related restrictions on GMOs in 2017. It promises guidance on how it will look in the next year.
Due to trade, international regulations are "the most important factor in the commercialization of genome-editing technologies," said Paul Spencer, opposite a meeting of agricultural economists.
The European Supreme Court ruled last summer that the European restrictions on the sale of transgenic GMOs should also apply to genetically modified food.
At the World Trade Organization (WTO), the US has joined 12 countries this month, including Australia, Canada, Argentina and Brazil calling on other countries to introduce internationally consistent, science-based rules for GM agriculture.
Are these foods safe?
The biggest worry is the so-called off-target edits, unintentional changes in DNA that could affect the nutritional value of a crop or the health of an animal, said Jennifer Kuzma from the Center for Genetic Engineering and Society at North Carolina State University.
Scientists are looking for signs of problems. Take the hornless calves that feed in a UC Davis field. One is female, and once Van Eenennaam starts producing milk, he will test how similar the milk and fat composition of milk from unaltered cows is.
"We're kind of too cautious," she said, noting that she would eat beef from naturally polled Angus beef cattle, milk from processed Holsteins should be as well.
But for Kuzma, companies need to be clear about how these new foods were made and the evidence that they are healthy. It wants regulators to decide on a case-by-case basis which changes are not a big deal and may require further investigation.
"Most genetically-engineered plants and animals will probably only eat well, but it's only when you hide behind the terminology that it will serve you badly in the long run," Kuzma said.
Avoiding a backlash
The uncertainty about the regulatory and consumer reaction is creating some strange bedfellows. An industry-backed group of food manufacturers and farmers asked university researchers and consumer representatives to develop guidelines for the "responsible use" of GM food processing.
"This coalition apparently exists because of the battle scars There is no question from the GMO debates," said Greg Jaffe of the Watchdog Center for Science in the Public Interest, who agreed to join the Center for Food Integrity's policy group. "Obviously, questions about this technology are being raised."
sustainability or hype?
Gene editing can not do everything, warned Calyxt's Voytas. There are limitations on how much food can be changed. Sure, scientists have made wheat that contains less gluten, but it is unlikely that it will ever be completely gluten-free, for example, for people who can not digest this protein – or make allergy-friendly peanuts.
This is not the case It is clear how easily companies can process different types of food, which is crucial for their profits.
Despite their concerns about proper regulation, Kuzma estimates that about 20 genetically engineered plants will reach the US market over a five-year period Scientists are also studying changes to crops such as manioc, which are important in the poorest countries ,
"We believe the industry is truly revolutionizing," she said.