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Biosafety Science » Emerging Trends/Techniques

Title: Genome Editing Requires Scientific Caution and Regulation
Publication date: December 03, 2014
Posting date: December 03, 2014

THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE 
 
Dear Friends and Colleagues 
 
Genome Editing Requires Scientific Caution and Regulation 

Genome editing is an advanced genetic engineering technology that can directly modify a gene within a genome. Examples include genome editing with nucleases such as zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), and the clustered regularly inter-spaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)/Cas system.

Scientists have warned that some organisms modified by genome editing may appear almost identical to naturally occurring organisms, making genetic characterization difficult. While acknowledging that genome editing demonstrates efficient and effective genetic engineering, they caution that it is creating indistinct regulatory boundaries between naturally occurring and modified organisms.

 

They also cite other risks such as unforeseen functional losses or gains in the modified organisms, which may threaten biodiversity. Furthermore, unforeseen immunogenicity or toxicity in agricultural products could have adverse health impacts. Strict scientific scrutiny of these organisms is therefore required before any environmental release or placing on the market is considered. 

One major issue raised is whether some techniques of genome editing will fall under current regulations for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The scientists call for scientific accountability in R&D to “avoid misleading society” and for the establishment of appropriate regulations to govern the technology. 

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CAUTION REQUIRED FOR HANDLING GENOME EDITING TECHNOLOGY
 
By Motoko Araki1, Kumie Nojima2, and Tetsuya Ishii1
Trends in Biotechnology May 2014, Vol. 32, No. 5

doi:10.1016/j.tibtech.2014.03.005

 
1 Office of Health and Safety, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0808, Japan
2 Molecular Imaging Center, National Institute of Radiological Sciences, Chiba 263-8555, Japan 

Genome-editing technology, although a robust tool for genetic engineering, is creating indistinct regulatory boundaries between naturally occurring and modified organisms. However, researchers must act with caution in research and development to avoid misleading society. Furthermore, appropriate regulations should be proactively discussed and established for handling genome-editing technology.


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