GM crop regulation: a spectrum

Every debate in the public about GM crops seems to be whether they should be legal or not. What I don’t understand is why GM regulation needs to be so binary, how many other topics are people really completely for or completely against?

The large majority of scientists would agree that the concept of GM is safe and sound, the act of putting a gene from one organism into another isn’t in fact the problem, in reality the human race has been doing this for thousands of years through conventional breeding.

I know a lot of individuals would say that GM crops are bad for the environment, one may ask for an example and a lot of the time this example is RoundUp ready crops. RoundUp ready crops are resistant to a major herbicide, glyphosate, so yes this example does most likely encourage the use of herbicides. This does not mean that all GM crops are bad for the environment, some can help the environment in a major way.

Maybe you are concerned about antibiotic resistance genes as being used for selectable markers. Most other scientists and I would assure you that they are not going to harm you in any way. However, if you would prefer other selection techniques that’s totally fine. If we accept that GM crops could be a viable solution to global food security then more scientific effort can be put into developing selectable markers that the public would be happy with.

The regulation of GM crops in the EU is by process, what this means is that the government decide on whether the way a crop is made should be allowed and then all crops made in the same way are either all legal or illegal depending on their original decision. So all crops  made through GM approaches are banned, no matter how many people that crop may really benefit. This also means that all crops made through chemical mutagenesis are legal to produce and grow. A decision is still pending for the potentially revolutionary gene editing technology CRISPR/Cas9.

Other countries, such as Canada use trait-based regulation or alternatively regulation on a case-by-case basis which is used in Argentina, Sweden and Japan. This is actually weighing up the benefits of a crop with potential risks.

In my opinion, once we decide that not all GM crops should be treated equally, we can actually move forward in the debate to target research and production to GM crops that would actually be of benefit to society.

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