Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

Market conditions key to adoption of gene editing

Consumer acceptance, regulatory frameworks and manageable trade routes will support adoption of sustainable food technology, research suggests.

Consumer acceptance and commercial cooperation are key to enabling the adoption of gene-editing technologies towards sustainable agriculture, an international study has found.

Research into regulatory frameworks for genome editing in agriculture, led by the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems, has highlighted the challenges and opportunities faced by countries around the world in implementing the technology.

Gene editing presents an opportunity to contribute to sustainable agriculture, and offers market access for small and medium-sized organisations, the survey found.

However, challenges are presented by international trade barriers and limited customer acceptance of gene editing technologies, it showed.

International survey

Researchers sought to understand how countries are regulating frameworks for gene editing tools, by interviewing government officers in regulatory agencies, and academic experts, in Asia, the Americas, Africa and Australia.

All the regions chosen have activity related to genetically modified crops in regulation, production or trade.

The team sought to determine the regulatory frameworks used around gene editing from country to country, the types of applications made to use the technology, and the perceived risks and rewards associated with gene editing.

Applications for gene editing technologies in sustainable foods and livestock included heat-tolerant cattle in Australia, weed-resistant grass in Kenya, and rain-resistant wheat in Japan.

Approaches towards regulation varied between regions, with some applying or amending current regulations based on genetic modification, and others developing novel regulations as required.

Participants in the survey indicated the benefits associated with gene-editing technologies to include contributing to sustainable agriculture, and to innovation.

Perceived challenges included trade barriers from variations in regulation, public acceptance, and potential detrimental effects from applications.

Researchers suggest that countries could agree on a common framework for risk assessment, which can be adapted for individual countries.

The study also showed that optimistic messaging to consumers around the benefits of gene-edited crops or animals, and empowering farmers and end-users, will lead to greater acceptance and adoption of innovations in society.

The research, published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, was carried out with the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Gene editing can play a key role in supporting the development of sustainable foods, and effective communication by stakeholders can ensure that consumers can see the benefits of the technology for themselves, farmers, livestock and the environment, as part of a mix of solutions to the challenge of climate change.

Hellen MbayaGlobal Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

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