Author: Tabitha M. Powledge
Publication: Genetic Literacy Project
Publication Date: 2014
Introduction: If there was really any hope that the new gene-editing techniques would be accepted as benign by anti-GMO activists, it has vanished. Last week I wrote about how Chinese researchers used a gene editing method, the one called CRISPR, to silence three genes that make bread wheat susceptible to the fungal disease powdery mildew. And how another researcher argued that, since this research did not involve transgenics–the transfer of foreign genes into an organism–perhaps both regulators and opponents of GMOs would find it acceptable. That optimism is evidence that at least some scientists really haven’t grasped a central (if somewhat vague) worry about genetic engineering: that the very idea of altering organisms’ genes is unnatural and therefore unacceptable. There are other objections too, of course, the political and economic ones, but let’s ignore them for now. The point is that, for those who are concerned about GMOs, the methodology for genetic modification of an organism is irrelevant. The problem, for them, is the modification itself, not how it is done.