New Genomic Techniques in EU – have your say

Participatory democracy means citizens have a say in the process of policymaking. Here is your chance to contribute to creating an updated, science-based European legal framework for edited plants. You will be asked questions such as: “Should the potential contribution to sustainability of the modified trait of a product be taken into account in new legislation on plants produced by targeted mutagenesis or cisgenesis?”

Fyodor Urnov imagines CRISPR cures

Fyodor Urnov, University of California, Berkeley/Innovative Genomics Institute. Urnov is a pioneer in the field of genome editing, with a diverse background in academia, industry and the nonprofit sector. During his time at Sangamo Biosciences he co-developed and co-named human genome editing.

“Imagine CRISPR cures” is the title of the keynote by Fyodor Urnov at the World CRISPR Day conference on October 20. The talk was far from a celebration: “The fact that editing represents an approach to the majority of monogenic diseases in principle doesn’t mean that some biotech will take on disease number 823 in practice, and there are over 5,000 monogenic conditions on OMIM. Three years to IND in the best case scenario and cost scale of more than $6m per disease, that’s incompatible with either the promise of CRISPR to edit any given mutation which it can do or the unmet medical needs”. Don’t miss the on-demand video to learn more about the challenge of N=1 trials and Urnov’s call to arm against ultra-rare diseases.

Editing grapevine in Italy

A vineyard in northeast Italy (from M. Morgante’s Ppt)

CRISPeR Frenzy is pleased to publish the full text of the presentation held on June 6 by Michele Morgante (Università degli Studi di Udine) at the Virtual Workshop on Innovative Biotechnologies and Regulatory Approaches organized by the US Embassy in Rome and USDA.

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WHO’s roadmap on genome editing

A multi-disciplinary panel of 18 experts from all over the world, a two years long consultation, over 150 pages. The much-awaited report of the World Health Organization on human genome editing was delivered on July 12 and is divided into three parts: A framework for governance, Recommendations, and Position Paper. While not legally binding, it is expected to influence both governments and the scientific community, by offering a roadmap based on widely shared ethical principles and usable policy tools.

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CRISPR plants, climate change and the precautionary principle

This week’s suggested reading is the paper “EU policy must change to reflect the potential of gene editing for addressing climate change” by Sarah Garland published in Global Food Security. Garland’s article is a welcome addition to the debate and also a suggestion on how to get out with the impasse of the European Court of Justice ruling on genome editing. Here are a few excerpts:

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CRISPR & GMOs, vive la différence

What’s the right way to regulate edited-plants? The question still waits for an answer in Brussels, and debate goes on in Europe.

According to Reuters, France backs non-GMO regulation for crop gene-editing in the EU. Gene editing of crops and livestock may soon be permitted in England, says the Guardian. Parliamentary commissions divided on new breeding techniques, media report in Italy. For a comparative viewpoint of regulatory frameworks globally, see the recent “Genome editing for crop improvement” by All European Academies.

Italy is a yellow spot in the heritable editing map. Why?

Look at this map, from a detailed and up-to-date analysis published in the CRISPR Journal. It’s the global policy landscape on heritable human editing, i.e., modified embryos transferred to a uterus to initiate a pregnancy. Who would expect a catholic country like Italy to stand out as one of the very few countries not totally prohibiting such a controversial practice?

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A bold proposal and a cautious report

Let’s imagine a hundred or more citizens from all over the globe, selected to partecipate in a giant focus group aiming to represent world views. It would be an unprecedented social experiment, that’s for sure, but the call is worth considering. The bold proposal comes from a group of social scientists and a few geneticists (George Church included) writing today in Science. Fascinating as it is, this kind of assembly is probably easier said than done. However, the main problem, in my opinion, comes next: what should experts and politicians do with the assembly’s deliberations?

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EU Citizens’ Initiative for fair rules on NBT

The initiative to foster responsible agricultural innovation in the EU was started by a group of young Master’s students from eight EU member states, with backgrounds in food safety, food law, environmental studies, plant sciences, economics and biotechnology. They met at Wageningen University and joined forces to urge the European Commission to update the legislation on plant breeding. Please visit https://www.growscientificprogress.org/ to know more and sign up.