Out of the lab and almost ready for prime time, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) will hit your grocery store shelves in the next few years. It’s a form of biotechnology that edits an organism’s own genes in specific ways to alter expressions that are undesirable such are browning, wilting and mold. It snips and adjusts from within, rather than inserting genes from other organisms. Call it semantics, but the United States Department of Agriculture has given the green light to CRISPR technology because it doesn’t introduce foreign genes like those that are genetically modified. Yes, this is another instance where lab to land technology is moving at a faster rate than both our ability to and understanding on how to regulate it.
According to The 2016 Food and Health Survey, seventy percent of us view modern agricultural practices as having at least a small role in ensuring that all people have access to healthy food. One-third of us claim we need more information to make an informed decision about the specific role of biotechnology in our food production system and twenty-five percent of us support special labeling for foods produced with biotechnology. CRISPR technology has been tested to reduce the browning and bruising of mushrooms, increase the waxiness of corn (used in adhesives, not foods), reduce the undesirable gas-producing effects of certain vegetables such as cabbage and increase the resistance of fungus in wheat.
What’s the rush for CRISPR foods? Most urgently, they could help improve our global food supply with nourishing foods amidst a growing population and famine. Enhancing food sustainability by reducing the loss in the field, during shipment, sitting in food banks or on grocery store shelves while awaiting consumption by the masses is successfully increased with gene editing. You’ll recognize many of the companies exploring CRISPR food solutions including Monsanto, Pioneer, DuPont, Cellectis and Calyxt. No doubt taste, price and convenience must compliment our desire for food transparency and our goals to live well, eat safely and be socially responsible. Whether consumers will be more accepting of foods grown CRISPR from a little snip here and an adjustment there will be interesting to watch and our future may well be dependant on it.
Categories: Nutrition & Wellness