Action Alert: Stop Gene-Editing from Being Allowed in Organic Food

Genetic Engineering is trying to sneak into organic food.

 

At a House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing in July, USDA Undersecretary of Agriculture Greg Ibach encouraged members to consider allowing gene-editing to be used to “enhance organic production.”  Listen to the speech HERE

 

Gene-editing is when a scientist changes the DNA of a plant or animal.  It involves deleting, inserting, or replacing a DNA sequence.  And CRISPR is the gene-editing tool of choice.

 

Proponents claim gene-editing can improve the characteristics of a crop or an animal (including correcting genetic disorders).  But they are playing the role of God.  DNA is the blueprint of an organism.  It contains the instructions needed for that organism to develop, live, and reproduce.  These instructions are passed down from the parent to their children.  Why would we think it’s a good idea to change that instruction manual?  Can we really improve on God’s design?

 

We don’t even understand how changing a single sequence of DNA can effect the organisms long-term health or the health of their offspring.  And, we certainly cannot predict the unintended consequences.  With so many unknown variables, why introduce gene-editing into the food supply – let alone the organic food supply?

 

Here’s what a handful of scientific studies have concluded regarding unintended consequences of gene-editing:

  1. A 2018 study reported that DNA breaks introduced by gene-editing “frequently” lead to deletions in other parts of the DNA, as well as breaks in portions of the DNA that are located distally from the site of gene-editing.  The study concluded that the observed damage to the DNA may have “pathogenic” consequences, meaning the damage may lead to disease. Read the study
  2. Gene-editing of the mouse genome led to “molecular scars,” according to a 2017 study published in Nature Communications.  Specifically, gene-editing led to “complex deletions and insertions” in the DNA.  The study concluded that “much remains to be learned about the molecular consequences obtained on targeting the mouse genome, the collateral damage and the scars left behind.” Read the study
  3. A study published in 2017 reported “exon skipping as an unintended consequence of genome editing.”  Exon skipping resulted from either splicing or large DNA deletions that removed exons during the gene-editing process.  The authors concluded that “the frequency with which CRISPR-induced indels cause exon skipping is difficult to predict.”  However, they “detected an unexpectedly high frequency of large deletions induced by CRISPR.”  The authors concluded: “…our findings warrant careful analysis of editing events, because the aberrant juxtaposition and splicing of exons could result in neomorphic alleles.”  That means new genes or new molecular functions may be created as an unintended consequence of gene-editing.  Read the study
  4. In 2017, a study published in Trends in Plant Science concluded, “A great deal is known about the principles of designer nucleases but much remains to be learned about their detailed behavioral characteristics in different plant species.”  In other words, it’s too soon to release this technology into the food supply. Read the study
  5. A study published in The Plant Genome acknowledged that unintended consequences in agriculture have not been fully considered or explored: “…development of plant genome editing has not yet fully considered potential off-target mismatches that may lead to unintended changes within the genome. Assessing the specificity of CRISPR-Cas9 for increasing editing efficiency as well as the potential for unanticipated downstream effects from off-target mutations is an important regulatory consideration for agricultural applications.”  Read the study

 

Let’s stop the idea of gene-editing being allowed in organics before it gains momentum!

 

Sign The Cornucopia Institute’s petition telling the USDA “No Genetic Engineering in Organic!”

 

Click HERE to read the petition

 

References:

    1. Repair of double-strand breaks induced by CRISPR–Cas9 leads to large deletions and complex rearrangements.  Michael Kosicki, Kärt Tomberg & Allan Bradley, Nature Biotechnology, 16 July 2018; https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt.4192
    2. CRISPR/Cas9 targeting events cause complex deletions and insertions at 17 sites in the mouse genome.  Shin HY1,2, Wang C1, Lee HK1,3, Yoo KH1,4, Zeng X1, Kuhns T1, Yang CM1, Mohr T1, Liu C5, Hennighausen L1. Nature Communications (2017); https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28561021
    3. CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing induces exon skipping by alternative splicing or exon deletion.  Haiwei Mou†, Jordan L. Smith†, Lingtao Peng, Hao Yin, Jill Moore, Xiao-Ou Zhang, Chun-Qing Song, Ankur Sheel, Qiongqiong Wu, Deniz M. Ozata, Yingxiang Li, Daniel G. Anderson, Charles P. Emerson, Erik J. Sontheimer, Melissa J. MooreEmail author, Zhiping WengEmail author and Wen Xue, Genome Biology (2017); https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-017-1237-8
    4. Characteristics of genome editing mutations in cereal crops. Zhu C, Bortesi L, Baysal C, Twyman RM, Fischer R, Capell T, Schillberg S and Christou P;  Trends in Plant Science (2017) 22:38–52; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27645899
    5. Achieving plant CRISPR targeting that limits off-target effects. Wolt JD, Wang K, Sashital D and Lawrence-Dill CJ (2016). The Plant Genome (2016) 9(3): doi: 10.3835/plantgenome2016.05.0047; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27902801