How gene editing helps farmers and consumers – Rimbey Review


Health Canada would likely treat genetically modified crops differently from genetically modified crops, or GMOs. It would be the right decision.

This means that the oversight provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would look a lot like what we see for conventional crops.

This issue is obviously very remote from consumers, but it will certainly affect them.

Genetic modification is different from gene editing. Genetic modification usually involves the artificial insertion of genes into the genome of a plant or animal. Gene editing can instantly, in a very targeted fashion, edit parts of a genome by removing, correcting or adding sections to a plant’s DNA.

Gene editing does not usually involve the introduction of genes from other species, but these techniques allow quite complex control of an organism’s genome. With gene editing, many years of research can be saved by making similar adjustments through conventional breeding.

Biology and anti-GMO enthusiasts will claim that the two are the same. They just aren’t.

Many countries, including some in Europe, are rewriting regulations for genetically modified seeds to reflect what gene editing can do. This biological compromise is different from unnatural crossbreeding of breeds to create a new plant.

This is good news for everyone, including consumers who barely understand the ramifications of such a decision.

Gene editing will impact agriculture and make our farms more efficient.

Consumers will benefit from gene editing without realizing it. By making agricultural production more efficient, yields can increase while using less land, less water and fewer natural resources. Gene editing can make farming even more sustainable.

By altering the DNA of plants, crops can adapt faster to climate change – a huge boost for an industry highly vulnerable to Mother Nature’s wrath. Plants can be designed to resist drought, disease and pathogens, helping farmers in Canada and other parts of the world where farmers are often impoverished by climate change. Banana production is a good example.

In addition, gene editing can improve the nutritional composition of a plant. For plant enthusiasts, the protein content of crops can be increased to make processing products more efficient and cheaper. The fat content of crops can also be lowered, which would mean less processing for the food we buy.

The food we waste is the one bill we never get but always pay as consumers, and gene editing can help on that front as well. Lettuce, mushrooms, and tomatoes are said to have a longer shelf life as they could ripen later. Supply chain issues are shortening the shelf life of many foods we buy at retail. Gene editing can help.

If you have allergies or intolerances, gene editing can also play a role. For example, gluten-free wheat can make bread and pasta edible for those with celiac disease. Over three million Canadians report having at least one food allergy and a million more have food intolerances. Science can make certain foods less frightening for millions of Canadians. The possibilities are limitless.

But gene editing is not a panacea for all of our diet ailments. Alarmist groups have already started to voice concerns about gene editing. And to some extent, these groups are correct that more research is needed and that we must proceed with extreme caution. Nothing is absolute or perfect in science, and we need to appreciate the risks of gene editing over time.

The other challenge is transparency. Every day we are exposed to food products that contain genetically modified ingredients without knowing where they are.

Over 75 percent of food products sold in Canadian grocery stores may contain genetically modified ingredients, but the labels do not mention them. There is a good chance, for example, that you ate genetically modified salmon without knowing it. It’s perfectly legal.

To get consumers to befriend the technologies that make farming more efficient and beneficial to all of us, the least we can do is allow consumers to appreciate how upstream on-farm practices come to them. profit.

This is a concern that the majority of consumers either do not care about or understand about these technologies. For more awareness, identifying genetically modified or modified ingredients at retail is the least we can do.

Dr Sylvain Charlebois is Senior Director of the Agri-Food Analysis Laboratory and Professor of Food Distribution and Policy at Dalhousie University.


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