We first reported on DuPont Pioneer CRISPR last July, and how the breakthrough gene-editing tool was talking to consumers to avoid the problems that stifled GMOs.
Unlike conventional genetic modification, CRISPR works directly on the DNA of the plant or animal being bred. While GMOs, as we have traditionally known them, involve inserting target DNA from a different species, CRISPR can directly “edit” an organism’s DNA for a result that falls within the genetic diversity of that animal or plant. That way, nothing foreign is being inserted into the host DNA.
In April 2016, the USDA gave the first approval to a CRISPR crop, clearing white-button mushrooms that had been edited to not brown as quickly. In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the green light to a version of the plant Camelina sativa, an important oilseed crop that had been genetically engineered using CRISPR to produce enhanced omega-3 oil. What was interesting about this approval was that the USDA did not ask that the inventors of the plant endure the usual regulatory hoops required to sell biotech crops. The next month, a drought-tolerant soybean variety developed with CRISPR also got a quick pass from the USDA.
The reason? While these crops were gene-edited, they were not genetically “modified,” according to USDA regulations; the process did not add any foreign DNA. This, the USDA has now repeatedly found, means those CRISPR-edited plants fall outside of regulatory purview.
DuPont played its hand and communication well, and this technology surely sets the stage for a non-GMO supermarket.