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In The News
   
 
 

 

In The News
 

 

January 5 - A gray area in regulation of genetically modified crops

Article: Cloning And Genetic Engineering

Its first attempt to develop genetically engineered grass ended disastrously for Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. The grass escaped into the wild from test plots in Oregon in 2003, dooming the chances that the government would approve the product for commercial use.

Yet Scotts is once again developing genetically modified grass that would need less mowing, be a deeper green and be resistant to damage from the popular weedkiller Roundup. But this time the grass will not need federal approval before it can be field-tested and marketed.

Scotts and several other companies are developing genetically modified crops using techniques that either are outside the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Department or use new methods like genome editing that were not envisioned when the regulations were created. The department has said, for example, that it has no authority over a new herbicide-resistant canola, or over a corn that would create less pollution from livestock waste, or switch grass tailored for biofuel production, or an ornamental plant that glows in the dark.

The trend alarms critics of biotech crops, who say there can be unintended effects of genetic modification, regardless of the process.

"They are using a technical loophole so that what are clearly genetically engineered crops and organisms are escaping regulation," said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union. He said the grass "can have all sorts of ecological impact, and no one is required to look at it."

But critics of biotech crops say the genome editing techniques can make changes in plant DNA other than the intended one. Also, the gene editing is typically done on plant cells or plant tissues growing in a dish. The process of then turning those genetically altered cells or tissues into a full plant can itself induce mutations.
 
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