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CRISPR Acceptance or Not?

CRISPR could be a key tool to address sustainability and other agricultural issues, Vox reports, but it wonders whether the public will view CRISPR-edited crops similarly to genetically modified organisms.

A new report from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identifies recent scientific advances that could help secure the US food supply. One such tool, it says, is gene editing. According to the report, altering the genes of economically important agricultural organisms could quickly increase their productivity and quality. "Current science has gotten us quite far, but we'll need an agricultural moonshot in order to solve some of the most pressing issues facing food production and security today," says Thomas Grumbly from the Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation, which commissioned the NASEM report, in a statement.

But there are questions about the public acceptance of CRISPR-edited crops. However, Vox argues that some of the pushback against GMOs wasn't because of the technology itself, but the corporate and proprietary trappings surrounding it. In contrast, it notes CRISPR has an academic and more transparent background.

"CRISPR may not win minds and hearts overnight, and we still have much to study and learn about it," Vox writes. "But here’s hoping that transparency, community involvement, and applications in the public interest will bring gene editing skeptics to the table — disbelief at least temporarily suspended — to give it a chance."