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Regulation Editing, Too

Though genome editing takes a different approach for improving organisms like crops than genetic modification does, the Guardian reports that it may still fall under European Union genetic modification rules.

A key criticism of genetic modification, the paper notes, is that it incorporates DNA from one species into another. By contrast, genome editing introduces new mutations into the plant's own DNA, much like occurs naturally or through selective breeding, the Guardian says, but on a speeded-up timescale.

“Using these methods to introduce new variations, our ability to create new genes is nearly limitless,” Sophien Kamoun from the John Innes Research Centre says. “We can be much more precise [than with conventional plant breeding].”

Critics, though, say that not enough is known about the potential health or environmental impact of the new technology.

The Guardian says the European Commission is to offer some guidance on the topic soon, "but it is not clear whether that could involve a ruling on whether and how the current regulations should apply, or a commitment to further study with the possibility of new regulations."