Friday, March 26, 2021

Health Canada deems gene-edited plant breeding safe

Health Canada has said gene editing is safe for developing improved plant varieties, a position that agrees with the United States and Japan.

It now goes to a public comment period before it can move on to final approval.

“We are pleased to see that Health Canada has come out clearly in support of the safety of plant breeding, and gene editing specifically, in this consultation document,” Pierre Petelle, president and chief executive officer of CropLife Canada, said in a news release.  

Genome editing, or gene editing, is changing the genetic code of a plant with technology like CRISPR-Cas9 — a technique used to cut sections of DNA. Scientists from California and France won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery of CRISPR.

Supporters of gene-edited crops, including many plant breeders, believe it could revolutionize crop development. It will allow scientists to precisely change a plant’s DNA to achieved desired traits, such as improved disease resistance or healthier crops.

As an example, a Minnesota firm has used gene editing to design a soybean that produces high-oleic oil. The company produced four million bushels of the crop

The proposal from Health Canada does not cover gene-edited livestock. 

There are a number of ideas under consideration, such as hornless cattle and boars that produce none of the substances that emit foul odours when their meat is cooked, yet editing that can be reversed if a hog breeder later decides he’d like that animal as a sire.