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CRISPR-Altered Plants Are Not Going To Be Regulated (For Now) (fastcompany.com) 284

Good news for people who like genetically altered tomatoes and other plants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will no longer regulate them. From a report: The USDA not only rolled back Obama-era rules regulating genetically edited plants, but now it claims that plants whose genomes have been altered using gene-editing technology (read: CRISPR) pose "no risk," MIT's Technology Review reports. While CRISPR engineering is still a relatively new science whose full impact is not yet known, the USDA has decided that it is merely an innovative shortcut to the age-old practice of plant breeding.
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CRISPR-Altered Plants Are Not Going To Be Regulated (For Now)

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  • CRISPR-ed (Score:4, Funny)

    by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @04:45AM (#56365379)

    I, for one, am looking forward to CRISPR-enhanced lettuce, at my local grocery.
    Also, I'm shocked a Republican administration would do any pro-GMO move, even if they frame it as 'less regulation'.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2018 @05:36AM (#56365475)
      Republicans are more likely to support GMO than oppose it. Oh we have our fringe lunatics who think GMO is a government conspiracy to instill mind control or some other BS. But mostly we recognize that GMO increases output with less resources. It's good for business, good for the small farmer as well and it's feeding large parts of the world (Golden Rice).

      GMO is helping to feed the world. Why would we not support it.

      Meanwhile it's the Democrat loonies who push vegan this, or "Organic" that and who tend to oppose GMO and corporate farming.
      • Re:CRISPR-ed (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @07:56AM (#56365771)

        Genetic editing is just a precisely targeted, one-generation way of modifying natural species the way we have been doing since the beginning of agriculture.

        • Re: CRISPR-ed (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2018 @08:21AM (#56365827)

          No it isn't. There are a lot of changes which are difficult or impossible to make with more traditional selective breeding methods. But that's missing the point entirely.

          The problem is that people either fear or praise the tool, not the result. Saying "GMO are dangerous" is just as wrong as saying "GMO are safe."

          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            We're specifically talking about CRISPR here, which can be used in one of two ways. The first way is to randomly cut stuff out. The second way is to (semi-)randomly insert new things.

            If you're using CRISPR to make pretty random changes you're not doing much that hasn't been done before. People used to expose seeds to radiation to induce mutations, then try and grow them. Sometimes you'd get something new.

            More directed engineering, where you borrow bits from other species, including very different ones,

            • CRISPR isn't random. It's directed by a template RNA strand (called a "guide" and abbreviated sgRNA for historical reasons) to bind sections of DNA complementary to the guide. In addition to matching the guide, the target DNA must have a protospacer adjacent motif (NGG), which limits things a bit in practice.

              What happens after target DNA is recognized by the Cas9/sgRNA depends on the specific Cas9 variant and potentially the presence of other exogenous DNA introduced along with the Cas9 and sgRNA.

              Gene silen

        • Re:CRISPR-ed (Score:4, Informative)

          by aphor ( 99965 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @08:37AM (#56365867) Journal

          PR troll.

          Precisely targeted literally means NOT "the way we have been doing since the beginning of agriculture."

          Your equivocation is either evil, or Dunning Kruger effect.

          • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @08:44AM (#56365885)

            When we modify species by hybridization, we keep tossing the dice by mating individuals we hope carry the traits we want. Then we cull the offspring and keep repeating the process, generation after generation. All GM does is get us there faster and with less uncertainty.

            • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

              When we modify species by hybridization, we keep tossing the dice by mating individuals we hope carry the traits we want. Then we cull the offspring and keep repeating the process, generation after generation. All GM does is get us there faster and with less uncertainty

              Except that GM can introduce traits that could never be introduced simply by selective breeding. With traditional breeding you take plants of the same or very similar species and breed them. with GM you can take DNA from completely different

              • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

                "When you eat selectively bred tomatoes you know exactly what you're getting."

                No you don't. Many of those selective breeding techniques involve doing things to crank up the mutation rate. It's unlikely you're going to get RoundUp resistance or something, but it's not impossible you could get resurgence of something stored in the plant's genome that is normally turned off.

                In general our domesticated crop species have had many of their undesirable defensive characteristics bred out. Tomatoes are part of the

              • With any derived species, you have to test to make sure you have the characteristics you want in the offspring. With GM, this takes a short time rather than a long time.

            • I'm for GMO generally, but your analogy is not correct. I can't make glowing tomatoes through selective breeding, but with CRISPR I can insert jellyfish genes, natural antifreeze from fish, insecticides, etc.

              • Being able to incorporate genes from radically different species is a feature, not a bug. The testing process on each generation that results from your modification is the same as for an organism derived any other way. Many useful new species, specially designed for tasks like sequestering carbon, will flow from this.

                And remember, it’s going to happen whether or not the US is involved. Genetic engineering is a tool that will be vital for us ESPECIALLY if some bad actor gets the use of it.

                • I'm not really disagreeing with you, just pointing out that direct genetic manipulation via CRISPR or other means is not at all similar to selective breeding. I actually tend to think that perhaps putting natural fish based antifreeze in crops may not be such a bad thing and will lead to a greater abundance of hardier and more nutritious crops to help feed the world. However, we aren't even on the cusp of fully realizing the ramifications of genetic engineering of complex organisms and such "simple" things

              • I'm for GMO generally, but your analogy is not correct. I can't make glowing tomatoes through selective breeding

                Actually, you can. Just keep selecting offspring that get you features that aid bioluminescence.

                It's just going to take a very, very, very long time. It's not like someone was using CRISPR on that jellyfish.

            • All GM does is get us there faster and with less uncertainty.
              I suggest to read at least the wikipedia article about GM(O) before you make even more a fool about yourself.

        • Re:CRISPR-ed (Score:4, Insightful)

          by pots ( 5047349 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @09:49AM (#56366139)
          It allows for changes which can't be achieved through breeding. For the most part that fact is good, but it certainly does pose a degree of danger. I have defended GMO foods in the past as being safe, but that was under the premise that they were carefully monitored. This is just... nuts.
          • It allows for changes which can't be achieved through breeding.

            There are no changes that can't be achieved through breeding.

            There are changes that can't be quickly achieved through breeding.

            If you want a walking, talking tomato plant you can get it through breeding. It's just going to take a very, very, very long time.

        • No, it is not.
          You can not edit a chicken or fish gene into a tomato via "natural selection".

        • Lets migrate the whole company to the new 1.0 because it has more buzzwords! The developer has a decent track record with only a few major scandals and those were only the fault of some traitor whistleblower. We don't need to waste time testing it, everything will be perfect! Vendor lock in is perfectly safe.

          Why is it so many tech people won't allow me to install free apps on their servers BUT will insult my intelligence for not promoting Monsanto monopoly GMO crops in my body or my yard or my environmen

      • GMO is helping to feed the world. Why would we not support it.

        Because there are more of us than this world can support already.

        That's one good reason. The list is long and I'm sure you wouldn't read it if I dumped it here; how many do you need?

        • Because there are more of us than this world can support already.

          Let me restate your position, just so I make sure I have it right:
          You oppose a technology that could boost yields, and your rationale is that we should be starving people so the population will go down?

          • First of all, I don't oppose it; I oppose not regulating it. I generally fall on the "less is more side" regarding regulation, but we're talking about a necessity, here. On one hand, lifting regulations will allow it to be applied more widely; on the other hand, one unregulated mistake in the gene editing process and we've got "corn that kills" (literally) on the store shelf and millions will have eaten it and died before the cause is identified and the recall process can even begin. From that perspective,
        • Because there are more of us than this world can support already.
          No, there aren't.
          We throw away 40% - 50% of all food.
          The planet can easily host 100% more people without any change in food production.
          And could easily host 40 billion if we optimize instead of exploit. Probably even up to 100billion.

      • "Organic" and anti-GMO are the left's global warming. Scientific education and critical thinking are not as common as they should be.

        • What exactly is wrong with "organic"?
          Are you an idiot or what?

          • Yes, I'm an idiot, and probably ignorant. Now show me a peer-reviewed study that shows health benefits of organically grown anything to cure me of that.

    • Re:CRISPR-ed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @07:35AM (#56365721)

      You're shocked that the current administration rolled back rules set during the Obama administration and took the opposite stance?

    • by vtcodger ( 957785 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @09:06AM (#56365939)

      "I, for one, am looking forward to CRISPR-enhanced lettuce, at my local grocery."

      Grocery? Heavens no. The CRISPR enhanced lettuce will roll out of the grocery on its own, hitch a ride to your house, pick the lock, let itself in, lock the door behind it, climb into your fridge, discard any overly aged food, tuck itself into the vegetable tray, close the fridge door, and, if necessary, turn out the light in the fridge.

    • Re:CRISPR-ed (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pots ( 5047349 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @09:50AM (#56366149)
      There's nothing weird about this, GMOs are backed by very large companies. Ultimately, that's all that matters.
    • Re: CRISPR-ed (Score:4, Informative)

      by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @03:39PM (#56368491)

      That's not my experience at all. I've been on the pro GMO side of this ever since I heard it was a thing, primarily out of distrust of food alarmists (there's enough bullshit about food to turn all of California, where these myths are the most prevalent, dark brown. My biggest peeve of the moment is that people actually think MSG is bad, but the opposite is actually true.)

      The the worst offenders have all been Democrats. Their reasons are usually because they think GMO harms the environment (the opposite is true) they think it causes cancer, (false) they're on a crusade to make everybody eat organic (try finding an organic purist that isn't a Democrat. Vegans almost universally fall in this category as well, and try finding a vegan that isn't a Democrat.) Another reason it's usually Democrats is because of their very anti corporate stance, and/or they just hate Monsanto, not even bothering to consider that the technology itself is separate from the companies that employ it. The bill to ban GMO labeling was mostly supported by Republicans and mostly opposed by Democrats. Although Obama did sign the bill, in spite of his base labeling him as a coward for "caving to Republicans", and indeed many well known left leaning people here on slashdot were whining about their "right to know" about food's very immaterial GMO status every time that I told them the only purpose is to stigmatize it (i.e. labeling Jews.) Ironically, these guys want to know that more than they want information about material facts that manufacturers aren't required to put on labels, like the arsenic content of apple sauce.

      But, if that doesn't satisfy you, then this should help:

      https://www.isidewith.com/poli... [isidewith.com]
      https://newrepublic.com/articl... [newrepublic.com]
      http://www.weeklystandard.com/... [weeklystandard.com]
      https://reason.com/blog/2016/0... [reason.com]

      Oh, and if you support Bernie for 2020:

      https://geneticliteracyproject... [geneticlit...roject.org]
      https://www.politico.com/story... [politico.com]

      It's all but guaranteed that if Bernie gets elected, and Democrats have a supermajority in Congress, (the later if which could likely happen, given the shit coming out of Republicans lately, especially with net neutrality) you can bet your ass that GMO would end up banned, which would be a huge setback for the United States.

  • by Ayano ( 4882157 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @04:45AM (#56365381)
    It just ends up as proteins and starches when you eat it. Now if they produced some kind of chemical that ended up as poisonous that's a different story. The only reason you'd prefer one over the other as an end user is either taste or cost.

    It's just a more engineered version of why the Irish nearly replaced their entire crop with potatoes back in the day. They were easier to plant and produced good yield... until they didn't. Variety is the space of life after all.
    • by mentil ( 1748130 )

      Genetic engineering flips the epigenetic 'evil bit', automatically making the data 'bad'. Ever see 'attack of the killer tomatoes'? It's a warning about Monsanto.

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Now if they produced some kind of chemical that ended up as poisonous that's a different story.

      ...which is entirely possible given one of the goals of GMO is pest resistance.

      That said the fears about GMO health effects are overblown, but some regulation, even
      if only to register what's on the market and provide supply chain transparency, is merited. When
      the inevitable mistakes happen, they need to be dealt with promptly.

      The IP issues and the use of GMO as a legal crowbar to put small competitors out of business
      is a bigger overall threat. You don't want anyone who would use that tactic to be in contr

    • What's the big deal with the anti-GMO movement.

      The problem is not the GMO plants themselves but rather the increasingly caustic pesticides/herbicides that are being sprayed on them. You can wash off 99.99999% but that 0.00001% can harm you over time.

      It just ends up as proteins and starches when you eat it. Now if they produced some kind of chemical that ended up as poisonous that's a different story.

      Funny you say that because there are GMOs that produce proteins that kill certain insects. I don't think that's a problem but it exemplifies that a protein can be harmful. A problematic scenario where it's harmful to a small percentage of people but not lethal... like gluten.

      Gene editing is just a tool: w

    • The thing to remember about this is there is "big money" on both sides of this issue.

      There's lots of money to be made from developing GMO crops, obviously.

      There's also lots of money to be made by selling "organic" crops. And just like the major brewers have gone into "craft beer", a lot of major growers have gone into organic.

      You can see this when the anti-GMO side is demanding regulation to add a "Contains GMOs" label instead of a "GMO Free" label. "GMO Free" would be quick and easy to add, since the pro

  • "Good news for people who like genetically altered tomatoes and other plants."

    Both of them?

  • by invalid_user ( 253723 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @05:36AM (#56365473)

    Lettuce in an eggplant,
    Avocado!

  • So maybe there's still hope I might get glowing plants from the Kickstarter many years ago?
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @07:36AM (#56365723)

    Good news for people who like genetically altered tomatoes and other plants

    I defy anyone to find me a crop we raise that is NOT genetically altered. Seriously, wander around any grocery store and find me a single vegetable, fruit, grain, or protein for sale that humans have not genetically altered substantially. The only item I can think of are wild caught seafood. The only difference between them is the techniques used but they ALL have been genetically altered. Same goes for your household pet, the fibers in the clothes you wear, etc. We've been at this genetic alteration game for as long as we've been raising crops. Odds are that a good approximations of none of the food you've ever eaten wasn't genetically modified by humans at some juncture.

    The USDA not only rolled back Obama-era rules regulating genetically edited plants, but now it claims that plants whose genomes have been altered using gene-editing technology (read: CRISPR) pose "no risk,"

    While I'm not remotely against GMOs and gene editing, claiming that there is "no risk" given our current knowledge is more than a little absurd. Every researcher I've ever spoken with about CRISPR (my wife works with several of them) says something to the effect of "whoa that's powerful stuff... we should be careful until we understand it better". (their real concerns tend to be more in the area of bio-weapons and pathogens but crops are a mild concern of theirs) While it might turn out that there is actually no meaningful risk from CRISPR on crops, that doesn't mean we should rush headlong into the unknown without thinking through each step and making sure we know what we are doing as best we can. Modifying plants demonstrably affects ecosystems, sometimes in ways we didn't predict. Sometimes the modifications themselves aren't harmful but the actions they permit are - see modifying crops to be resistant to chemicals like glyphosate where the genetic modification isn't harmful itself but the herbicides or behaviors they facilitate clearly are harmful on some level. I see no evidence that we shouldn't use technologies like CRISPR but spending some years testing and learning seems like a practical first step and if we need some regulations to make that happen, so be it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by StormReaver ( 59959 )

      I defy anyone to find me a crop we raise that is NOT genetically altered.

      Just because we're doing it doesn't mean we should.

      Our history in modifying our environment is one of early attempts being disastrous, despite our confidence to the contrary at the time. We are in the very early stages of understanding how our direct modification of crop genes affects us. There is a HUGE difference between interbreeding plant species and letting Nature work it out, and editing genes directly. And given corporate history of unabashedly lying to us about the safety of their products in the

      • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @08:12AM (#56365807)

        I defy anyone to point out a time when Nature has allowed the mixing of tomato and frog genes to produce a superior tomato.

        RTFA, that is still regulated.

      • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday April 02, 2018 @08:26AM (#56365839)

        Just because we're doing it doesn't mean we should.

        What are you talking about? We've been genetically modifying plants for as long as there have been humans and it is fine. Yes we should be doing it, we will continue to do it, and the techniques for doing it are only going to get more effective. It will be effectively impossible to feed the human population without GMOs. It's not even a choice really.

        I won't be satisfied about the safety of GMO until we've had a couple hundred years of informed consent trials.

        So you are saying you'll never be satisfied. That isn't going to happen. Seven billion people on the planet, widespread use of GMOs using modern techniques for decades now (plus thousands of years of older techniques) and zero evidence of any negative nutritional effects across generations. If that sort of evidence isn't good enough for you then you will never be satisfied. The nutritional question is settled for all practical purposes and any negative health effects from them that might exist are clearly extremely subtle at worst. The experiment has already been run and the evidence seems clear that GMOs aren't a nutritional health risk either in the short or long term.

        Now if you want to make an argument about the effects of GMOs on ecosystems being potentially harmful then you might have an argument. There the evidence is a lot less clear and there is clear evidence that use of GMOs (think roundup ready) influences our behavior in ways that have clear and demonstrable harms both direct and indirect.

        Also, I defy anyone to point out a time when Nature has allowed the mixing of tomato and frog genes to produce a superior tomato.

        Your DNA is absolutely loaded with code from species that are not human [sciencemag.org]. The fact that you can't wrap your brain around mixing genes from seemingly unrelated species isn't evidence of a problem. You talk about nature "allowing" things as if genetics is somehow planned. That's not how it works. Genetic code doesn't have an agenda beyond reproduction. Read The Selfish Gene [wikipedia.org] sometime for a more eloquent argument.

        • Just because we're doing it doesn't mean we should.

          What are you talking about? We've been genetically modifying plants for as long as there have been humans and it is fine.

          Different meanings of the phrase "genetically modified." Yes, when you have children you could say that you have just produced genetically-modified humans-- their genes are not identical to either parent or any ancestor-- but this is not actually the same process as using CRISPR to splice in genes.

          Selective breeding and gene-splicing are very different technologies.

        • widespread use of GMOs using modern
          GMO is not wide spread.
          It is (at least food) forbidden in most countries ...

          Your DNA is absolutely loaded with code from species that are not human.
          Lol ... what a fucked argument is that?

          ALL DNA in a human is either human or from an RNA virus, as sure as hell you have no Dandoline or jelly fish DNA in your body ...

          OTOH: if you have, you would be a nice scientific study.

          I don't really get it. Why do chaps like you, you have made pretty clear in the last posts, that they h

    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      You don't think a couple hundred years of extensive fishing has not exerted a evolutionary selective pressure on them then?

      The only thing I can think of would be to head deep in to a forest somewhere like Alaska or Sibera and pick some wild mushrooms. However these are not available in your local supermarket.

      • You don't think a couple hundred years of extensive fishing has not exerted a evolutionary selective pressure on them then?

        I'm sure it has but didn't want to get bogged down with caveats. My point was that wild caught fish are the only possible exception compared with just about everything else which was very intentionally modified one way or another. You are quite right that we've probably caused some amount of genetic changes to seafood through selective pressures though comparatively minimal ones compared with something like a cow or a watermelon. I can think of a few others that perhaps were subject to selection pressure

      • There are wild grapes growing in the woods across the street from me. They are usually about 7mm in diameter with seeds about 3mm in diameter and, when ripe, taste like something you might use to remove paint. To me, they are a persuasive argument for selective breeding of plants. Lots of it.

        (Not that I don't think MBAs, lawyers, and advertising folks won't manage to perpetrate some disasters on their way to "perfect" crops.)

      • You don't think a couple hundred years of extensive fishing has not exerted a evolutionary selective pressure on them then?
        Actually? No? Why would it? How would it work?

    • Nitpicking again?
      And your mods are stupid as a sack of saw dust.
      If we talk about "genetic altered" we ... that means "we as ordinary people", always mean artificial genetically modified. No idea why you mix that up with "breeding".

      Obviously every human on the plant is aware that you can "breed" ... hence the word ... plants and animals in some way and alter their genetics.

      But: thank you for the reminder ... perhaps with my old age I might have forgotten this simple truth.

  • CRISPR does not belong in my lettuce.
  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Monday April 02, 2018 @12:16PM (#56367145)

    My triffids are almost ready to market.

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