Saturday, March 3, 2018

Look Out! "GMO 2.0" is Here!

New genetic techniques affecting food crops are now on the scene.  You may have heard about CRISPR, Gene Drive, Synthetic Biology, and others.  What are they and why should we be concerned?
Here are some a few articles about these new technologies: 
From the New York Times

And, with more detail, from the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) on "New Genetic Modification Techniques" (NGMT):

Since these new products are neither regulated for safety nor labeled, and since we still do not have a clear picture of the health, environmental or food security risks they entail, many people may wish to avoid them.  But how?

The Non-GMO Project, has addressed this. (Their verification mark is intended to give shoppers the assurance that a product has completed a comprehensive third-party verification for compliance with "Non-GMO Project Standard." the most rigorous Standard in the industry.) 

In case you are not familiar with the Non-GMO Project, here is a picture of the mark you may see on products at the market. 

 Here is their statement concerning "GMO 2.0": 

Biotechnology companies are making a concerted effort to distance themselves from the consumer and manufacturer rejection of GMOs by claiming that new genetic engineering techniques are not actually GMOs. These new genetic engineering techniques such as synthetic biology, gene drives, and gene editing, like CRISPR and TALEN, are often not “transgenic,” meaning the products of GMO 2.0 do not contain genes from multiple species the way “traditional” GMOs do. However, they are still products of biotechnology as defined by the Codex Alimentarius, a collection of international food standards; the Codex definition is the same one used by the Non-GMO Project.

Some of the new types of genetic engineering can’t yet be identified using current testing methodologies. In order to keep these technologies out of Non-GMO Project Verified products, our Standard outlines affidavit-based requirements for Non-Testable High-Risk Inputs. It is important to note that these requirements are within the context of the Project’s rigorous verification program, which includes segregation and traceability measures and testing for Major (Testable) GMO risk ingredients. This will support manufacturers in meeting consumer expectations, ensuring that the ingredients they are using are truly non-GMO. 

We hope to learn more about health and safety concerns, environmental effects and food security issues associated with these products in the near future.  But without this knowledge, many consumers, following generally accepted precautionary principles, may choose to avoid these products.