Researchers Propose Genetically Edited Foods as Alternative to Genetically Modified

New research published in Trends in Biotechnology examines the public backlash against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and whether a new type of technology known as Genetic Editing would be received better. A team of researchers from Italy are hopeful that “awareness of what makes these biotechnologies new and different” might lead to Genetically Edited Organisms (GEOs) being more widely accepted than their GMO counterparts.

Chidananda Nagamangala Kanchiswamy and his colleagues at Istituto Agrario San Michele believe that GEO fruit crops could be sold in grocery stores if the public understands the difference in the technology. Kanchiswamy says that the GEO’s are more “natural” because they do not involved the process of inserting genetic material from one organism into another as is done with Genetically Modified or Engineered crops. They believe if the crops are accepted they may even be able to be sold in areas where GM crops are banned.

The team writes that the recently developed tools will allow for improvement of fruit crops, such as bananas. While GM foods are created when foreign genes are inserted into a plant, genetic editing modifies “through the insertion, deletion, or altering of existing genes of interest”. The team hopes these differences will make the crops more marketable than GMO products have been.

While the European Union and much of the world either labels or outright bans GMO products, the United States has seen a mix of resistance and acceptance to the controversial technology. So far only Vermont has succeeded in passing labeling laws. Pro bio-technology organizations are suing Vermont in an attempt to have the labeling law repealed.

Most recently, activists in Colorado gathered enough signatures to get a labeling measure on the November ballot. Opponents say the labeling measures will increase costs on businesses and customers. Oregon will also be voting on the issue in the fall.

The crowds are split between blanket opposition to genetically modified foods and those who are calling for more studies to trace the effect on human consumption. Others oppose the GMO industry for limiting research and questionable business practices. Supporters of GM crops say they can feed the world’s starving populations and decrease costs.

What are your thoughts? Are GMOs safe? Do Genetically Edited Organisms offer an alternative? Would you eat them?