It’s time to embrace a new era of gene-edited food

This post was originally published on The Economic Times

At first, it seemed like a 28 square-meter plot of Arborio rice in Italy was a symbol of changing attitudes toward genetically engineered food. Instead, it’s shown us that the debate is well and truly alive.
Scientists used CRISPR-Cas9, a precision gene-editing technique, to create a variety of risotto rice potentially resistant to Pyricularia oryzae, a pathogenic fungus which leads to rice blast disease. Italy’s first outdoor experiment of the crop was launched in mid-May after rules were loosened to allow such a study, but disaster struck on June 21, when scientists arrived to find most of the plants torn up or mown down.

Some of the rice has begun to recover after being replanted, but lead scientist Vittoria Brambilla has said that the experiment has now “lost its scientific value.” Nobody has taken responsibility for the vandalism, but the message is clear: Genetic engineering remains extremely contentious in Europe.This matters because resistance to food altered by biotechnology is holding back development of new crops that may improve our health or help us mitigate and adapt to climate change.

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Read the rest of this post, which was originally published on The Economic Times.

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