USDA Reopens Comment Period for Deregulation of Gene-Edited Plants

Updated

The deregulation of gene-edited plants is on the USDA agenda, and the public comment period has been extended by 21 days. The comment page has yet to be posted on the Federal Register. CRISPR is a new technology that is being used in agriculture to modify plants. “New Gene Technologies” or NGTs are how big agricultural companies like Bayer are modifying crops. They are attempting to deregulate this technology before any legitimate safety studies are performed. While GMO crops have their own regulations, the new gene-edited crops will not be regulated if this proposal passes.

The impact of this blanket deregulation is concerning and summed up by Dr. Michael Antoniou, a professor in Molecular Genetics at Kings College in London. He states, “The market will be flooded with untested and unlabeled gene-edited food products with unknown short-term, let alone long-term, health and environmental consequences. This is simply a horrifying prospect.”

The big agricultural and biotechnology corporations say that the plants they produce with NGTs can theoretically be produced through natural plant breeding technology. Still, Dr. Antoniou has some disagreements with that assessment.

Dr. Antoniou elaborated, “Even if a gene-edited plant could theoretically be obtained through natural breeding (and by the way, there is no evidence that any GM gene-edited plant could have been produced with natural breeding; I believe that if two such plants produced using these two different techniques were put forward, they would be very different at the genetic and molecular levels and could have very different biological effects), the two PROCESSES (gene editing and natural breeding) bear no resemblance to each other with the spectrum of unintended DNA mutations differing markedly between the two.”

The potential of unintended DNA mutations has many concerned. They argue that there should be much more testing before allowing these products on the market. While some plants are modified to withstand higher amounts of glyphosate, others are modified for cosmetic changes. One of those changes? Enhancing how some fruit ripens; for example, bananas that don’t turn brown. Some scientists worry that this could cause changes in the DNA of the fruit.

Dr. Antoniou further explains, “The gene editing process as a whole (plant tissue culture, plant cell transformation, gene editing tool action) will inevitably result in hundreds if not thousands of sites of random unintended DNA damage leading to large scale alterations in gene expression patterns. This, in turn, can result in altered biochemistry and composition that could include the production of novel toxins and allergens. This contrasts with the genetic variation that results from natural breeding, which, contrary to the narrative spread by advocates of gene editing deregulation, results in far fewer sites of DNA change in a non-random manner.”

Jeffrey Jaxen reported about the CRISPR gene editing technology and some of the studies. There are indications there are more safety concerns to consider before allowing the free market to modify the food supply without regulation. Dr. Antoniou provided his own literature review that goes against the claims of the biotechnology firms pushing strongly for this deregulation.

Dr. Antoniou said, “Reviews of the literature confirm that gene editing can produce changes that conventional breeding could not achieve, or could only achieve with difficulty, as gene editing opens areas of the genome to DNA damage (mutations) that are protected from mutations in conventional breeding and mutagenesis breeding using chemicals or radiation.”

Studies that support the safety of plants that are modified with this gene-editing technology are nonexistent. Dr. Antoniou says, “This is why claims of the safety of gene editing are on the basis of the absence of evidence of health risks, which does not mean evidence of absence of health risks based on empirical, experimental observation.”

That is precisely why there is a push from the mega biotechnology companies calling for deregulation by reclassifying this method to place it in the same category as plants that go through a natural breeding process. They are asking for a regulatory process where the corporation doesn’t need to prove a product is safe; the government agency must determine it is unsafe based on the information provided by the corporation. The aim of the biotech giants is merely to present a case that insertion or deletion of DNA that naturally occurs in similar plants doesn’t contain any of the safety risks that occur when using foreign DNA from plants that wouldn’t naturally crossbreed. Thus, it would be a process that occurs naturally. There hasn’t been any credible evidence to support this claim, however.

According to the 2016 edition of the Worldwide Threat Assessment authored by James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, deregulating gene editing within our food supply is a national security risk. The document states, “Research in genome editing conducted by countries with different regulatory or ethical standards than those of Western countries probably increases the risk of the creation of potentially harmful biological agents or products. Given the broad distribution, low cost, and accelerated pace of development of this dual-use technology, its deliberate or unintentional misuse might lead to far-reaching economic and national security implications. Advances in genome editing in 2015 have compelled groups of high-profile US and European biologists to question unregulated editing of the human germline (cells that are relevant for reproduction), which might create inheritable genetic changes. Nevertheless, researchers will probably continue to encounter challenges to achieve the desired outcome of their genome modifications, in part because of the technical limitations that are inherent in available genome editing systems.”

The USDA is proposing to remove any such regulations when it comes to plants modified with CRISPR and similar technologies. The concern will also be that patented plants can crossbreed with other plants, which could lead to a wave of litigation from agricultural giants like Bayer. Bayer recently acquired Monsanto, a company responsible for several lawsuits against farmers for growing their patented GMO seeds – seeds that unknowingly blew into their fields. If the regulatory burden is removed, a flood of new untested plants with modified DNA could potentially take over the food supply. This proposed deregulation is certainly a national security concern, as expressed by James Clapper and “high-profile US and European biologists.”

There is a 21-day period to submit comments to oppose this: https://www.regulations.gov/commenton/APHIS-2023-0022-0001

 

 

Steven Middendorp

Steven Middendorp is an investigative journalist, musician, and teacher. He has been a freelance writer and journalist for over 20 years. More recently, he has focused on issues dealing with corruption and negligence in the judicial system. He is a homesteading hobby farmer who encourages people to grow their own food, eat locally, and care for the land that provides sustenance to the community.

Other Headlines

Coronavirus

Vaccine Causes Autism in Rats, Per New Study

A new study finds autism-like behaviors in male offspring when pregnant rats are given BNT162b2, the Pfizer mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. This single study clearly refutes the mantra of Big Pharma that “vaccines do not, and cannot, cause autism.” The study found significant alterations in WNT gene expressions in male and female rats. The researchers mention the limitations of animalContinue reading Vaccine Causes Autism in Rats, Per New Study

More news about Coronavirus

Health & Nutrition

Fenway Community Health Claims Government Immunity in De-Transitioner Case

Fenway Community Health has claimed Federal protection and immunity from litigation for the misdiagnosis and injury caused to the de-transitioner July Carlan, known as “Shape-Shifter.” The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) provides nationwide malpractice insurance for qualified health centers. Health center employees are considered government employees, and any malpractice lawsuit must be filed against the United StatesContinue reading Fenway Community Health Claims Government Immunity in De-Transitioner Case

More news about Health & Nutrition

Vaccines

Entries Within V-Safe Data Release Raise Eyebrows

The first batch of free-text V-safe data was released on February 15th, after a court victory. With 390,000 free text entries, it is time-consuming to browse and find the most revealing details. There was one comment that said “death,” and another said, “died.” There were several results for “miscarriage,” while a few more comments mentionedContinue reading Entries Within V-Safe Data Release Raise Eyebrows

More news about Vaccines

Science & Tech

USDA Reopens Comment Period for Deregulation of Gene-Edited Plants

The deregulation of gene-edited plants is on the USDA agenda, and the public comment period has been extended by 21 days. The comment page has yet to be posted on the Federal Register. CRISPR is a new technology that is being used in agriculture to modify plants. “New Gene Technologies” or NGTs are how big agricultural companies like Bayer areContinue reading USDA Reopens Comment Period for Deregulation of Gene-Edited Plants

More news about Science & Tech

Environment

Biden Faces Massive Opposition to Electric Vehicle Mandate

The Biden administration’s push for an electric vehicle (EV) mandate has received massive opposition from a wide range of stakeholders, including 26 states and the energy, agriculture, and automotive industries. Critics say that the new fuel standards would increase consumer costs and put an unfair burden on U.S. businesses.  On November 24, the Department of Transportation’s NationalContinue reading Biden Faces Massive Opposition to Electric Vehicle Mandate

More news about Environment

Policy

Look Into My Eyes, Rishi Sunak!

Nobody could escape the pain, anger, and feeling of betrayal in John Watt’s eyes and voice as he testified at the recent COVID-19 town hall with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on February 12 in County Durham, England. Watt, like other audience members, ended up harmed by the COVID-19 vaccines. Watt, of Glasgow, Scotland, now has PosturalContinue reading Look Into My Eyes, Rishi Sunak!

More news about Policy