Introducing Genetically Edited Crops: the Alternative to GMOs
Experts are trying to promote the recent creation of Genetically Edited Organisms (GEOs) as a preferable alternative to gene-insertion-based Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops. A very specific type of GMO, they say, has been raising concerns with governments and the public alike, and the editing of a plant within the bounds of its own natural genetic information may simply be a preferable course of action.
How exactly GEOs are created and what makes them preferable to GMOs was detailed in a report recently published in the journal Trends in Biotechnology.
"The simple avoidance of introducing foreign genes makes genetically edited crops more 'natural' than transgenic crops obtained by inserting foreign genes," Chidananda Nagamangala Kanchiswamy of the Istituto Agrario San Michele in Italy, said in a recent statement.
As things stand, very few transgenic GMOs are permitted to be distributed to the public, particularly in the European Union and United States, where the creation of these crops is the most heavily controlled.
However, this strict control hasn't stopped critics of GMOs from rallying against them, claiming potential unforeseen consequences and heavily criticizing the US Food and Drug Administration for not labeling GMOs when sold.
Experts admit that some of these GMO concerns are very real. Transgenic GMO crops are made with the unnatural insertion of genetic traits a specific crop could not have, even as the most unlikely results of natural selection.
This allowed some of the world's most prevalent cash crops to flourish in environments and conditions that would have otherwise spelt their downfall. However, critics are worried that the unnatural nature of this process may eventually lead to unforeseen consequences, such as carcinogenic food or worse.
"Transfer of foreign genes was the first step to improve our crops, but GEOs will surge as a 'natural' strategy to use biotechnology for a sustainable agricultural future," Kanchiswamy said.
He notes that while GMOs took the world where it needed to be to continue feeding steadily growing populations, more natural GEO techniques can now take the reins.
According to the paper, GEOs improve crops by simply taking the plant's preexisting genetic information and editing it - causing deletions and sequence swaps to create a genome that expresses preferable "super" traits.
The authors of the study even express their confidence that health officials and the public alike may recognize these new crops as natural products - not even within the same ballpark as their GMO counterparts.