Gene editing – A responsible means to assure food security of a growing world population on limited farmland and under changing climate conditions?
German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) within the framework of the Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research
Since more than 35 years, genetic manipulation of organisms has been studied scientifically to change characteristics of organisms faster than and sometimes different from what can be reached by traditional ways of breeding. A number of countries, mainly USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India have rolled out large-scale cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMO) of soya, corn, cotton and rapeseed. In Germany GMO crops are rejected by consumers and the majority of farmers. CRISP-CAS9 (or Gene Editing) is a rather recent technology that does not imply introduction of foreign genetic material but a targeted manipulation of the genetic information in a given organism. In July 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled, that gene editing has to be treated in exactly the same way as older techniques of genetic engineering. This implies that research and development (R&D) is strictly controlled and patents can be granted to the developers. Some experts argue that the outcomes of CRISP-CAS9 is not fundamentally different to what can be achieved with traditional breeding and that the process allows saving time and resources. In addition, they claim that gene editing is easily compatible with agricultural bio-diversity and other concepts of organic farming.
Is the decision of the European Court in line with the imperative of responsibility, in Hans Jonas’ concept? On the other hand, is it responsible to reject a technology that could help feeding a growing world population and make food crops more resilient to the impacts of climate change?
- Justus Wesseler, University of Wageningen
- Christoph Then, Testbiotech e.V.
- Harald König, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institut für Technikfolgenabschätzung und Systemanalyse (ITAS)
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