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New Breed of Edited Crops

Interest in gene editing, including for crops, is on the rise, Nature News reports, and a US committee is to meet next week to discuss how to regulate these new gene engineering methods.

The US produces more genetically modified crops than any other nation, and Nature News says that US regulations may be ready for a change. Many of them were developed when crops were typically altered using viral or bacterial elements, but in the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of crops developed using newer gene-editing tools like TALENs, zinc-finger nucleases and, more recently, CRISPR-Cas9. But how crops developed using some of these more modern genome-editing approaches will be regulated is unclear, Daniel Voytas, chief science officer at Calyxt, tells Nature News.

To that end, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is convening a committee next week sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and two other agencies to discuss what advances will be made in the area in the next five years to 10 years. Then, Nature News says, the committee is to create a report on how regulators need to prepare themselves for those eventualities.

The USDA has recently proposed that it would regulate "products of biotechnology," which would include encompasses organisms that have had stretches added to, deleted from, or altered in its genome, it adds. But whether the agency would heavily regulate everything that falls under that umbrella isn't certain as it could exempt some from regulation.