With GMO Struggle In Mind, Food Industry Vying For Public Trust With CRISPR Discussion
By Kristofor Husted, KUNC/Harvest Public Media
Oct 11, 2017
There’s a genetic technology that scientists are eager to apply to food, touting its possibilities for things like mushrooms that don’t brown and pigs that are resistant to deadly diseases.
And food industry groups, still reeling from widespread protests against genetically engineered corn and soybeans (aka GMOs) that have made it difficult to get genetically engineered food to grocery store shelves, are looking to influence public opinion.
The technology is called Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, or CRISPR. It’s a technique that Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal genetics professor at University of California, Davis, says can de-activate a gene. Or, as she puts it: “It’s editing. It’s like going into a Word document and basically replacing one letter, maybe that instead of wind, you want it to say wine,” she says.
Dozens of crops and livestock developed with CRISPR technology are years from the market, though the U.S. Department of Agriculture already said it won’t regulate CRISPR-developed products like other genetically engineered food since no foreign genetic material is introduced in the process. The Food and Drug Administration will decide which new products are safe.
To get ahead of any criticism, a group of heavyweights in the food industry have joined forces to form the Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture, which is funded by members like the U.S. Pork Board, Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer.
The board’s CEO, Bill Even, says the food industry missed a chance to do this when the earlier wave of genetically engineered food made it to the market.
“There was never any conversation with consumers around what is this and what did it mean,” he says. “Fast forward now today, there’s a lot of debate around GMOs and food. The public rightly has … they’re interested in knowing what’s in their food.”
People don’t often trust big companies, says Charlie Arnot, who leads the coalition and is the CEO of the Center for Food Integrity. But when it comes CRISPR, there are three key strategies Arnott says will help get consumers on board.
First: CRISPR is not a secret...
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