“As a scientist with experience in plant genetics and genomics, I would like to comment on genome editing technologies used for agriculture and food.
The recent development of genome editing technologies is stunning. People now can create new crop varieties that are not distinguishable from crop plants that have been produced by classical breeding work. From the regulatory point of view, this probably is not the question of finding any subtle difference among those new crop plants created by genome editing technologies, but the question of what genetic variations have already been produced and can be produced through classical breeding processes. Since those variations are known to be safe and accepted by the public, the understanding of their molecular basis would help draw the line of what should be regulated by the government.
Changes of DNA sequences and structures occur constantly in the nature. Without those changes, there are no plants and animals including humans to exist. The creation of new germplasm through classical crop breeding, which has been the foundation of our civilization over thousands of years, follows the same fact, as well. New germplasm and varieties have been created by new combination of gene compositions including spontaneous changes of DNA sequences and shuffling of gene elements. How the genomes of our crop plants are altered over years is now viewable through the high-power sequencing tools. Those changes are remarkable. Single nucleotide changes are just a tip of icebergs. Others include large changes such as swapping of gene segments, fusion of genes and shuffling of gene regulation elements.”