FAQs About Gene Editing

Frequently Asked Questions about Gene Editing

What is gene editing?

Gene editing encompasses a suite of technologies designed to intentionally alter predetermined DNA sequences in the genome and result in precise, targeted insertions, deletions or other changes for genetic improvement. The Framework for Responsible Use of Gene Editing in Agriculture was developed with non-transgenic applications in mind.

What are the benefits of gene editing?

Gene editing has tremendous potential to benefit society through improvements in food production and solutions to an array of challenges. Gene editing can be used to help improve the health and well-being of plants and animals. Ultimately, the use of gene editing can help farmers keep pace with the growing demand for more and better food, while using less water and land, and fewer nutrients and other resources. In addition, gene editing is being researched for human health improvements.

How is gene editing currently being used in food and agriculture?

A variety of gene editing applications are being researched and developed as potential solutions to challenges in agriculture. Gene editing can help reduce food waste by producing apples, mushrooms and potatoes that do not brown. Other developments are underway to improve health and disease resistance in plants, pigs and cattle. Researchers are also working on breeding cattle that do not grow horns, which would eliminate the need for farmers to dehorn cattle, a practice sometimes used to prevent risk to animal caretakers, other animals and the animals themselves. Gene editing is also being explored for solutions to nutritional challenges, such as wheat that does not contain gluten, peanuts that don’t include allergens or soybeans with a healthier mix of fatty acids.

What is CRISPR?

CRISPR refers to a specific type of gene editing and stands for “Clustered Regulatory Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats.” For more on CRISPR, see this post and videos from Best Food Facts.

What are the ethical considerations and potential risks of gene editing?

Gene editing has the potential to help agriculture produce more food for a growing world population, provide more nutritious food and do it using more sustainable farming practices. Gene editing can also help increase disease resistance in plants and animals. With any new technology, it is important to assure it is used responsibly. One principle in responsible gene editing is to evaluate the potential social, economic and environmental consequences, disclose the findings, and work to minimize these impacts during the development process. It is important for developers of gene editing to demonstrate their commitment to responsible use and be willing to engage in a public dialogue about the technology and resulting products.

Is gene editing regulated by the U.S. government?

The U.S. government is in the process of determining the appropriate regulatory approach. Three U.S. federal agencies have jurisdictional oversight for gene editing in food and agriculture, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Is gene editing being embraced by other countries?

Countries around the world are engaging in dialogues about gene editing technologies and the appropriate level of regulatory oversight. Many countries do not differentiate between plants and animals when it comes to the use of this technology, and several are in the process of considering varying levels of regulation.

Does gene editing create GMOs? What’s the difference between GMOs and gene editing?

In general, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are created using transgenic technology that introduces DNA from a different organism. The transgenic process has been used in several crops and one food animal that are commercially available.

In contrast, gene editing often uses a cisgenic process, which involves precise changes to an organism’s own genetic code without introducing DNA from another organism.

What is the Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture?

The Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture was formed by The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) to strive for global understanding and acceptance of gene editing technology in agriculture and food. Coalition participants share the goal of earning trust in gene editing to provide consumers safe, nutritious and affordable food produced in sustainable systems.

Who are the members of the Coalition and how did they become involved?

Members of the Coalition include representatives from food companies, academia, civil society, technology developers, farmers and related associations. They got involved because they believe that gene editing has tremendous potential to solve food production challenges, and they aspire to work together to engage with stakeholders about the responsible use of this technology. View the list of Coalition leaders here.

Why did The Center for Food Integrity form the Coalition? What is CFI’s role?

The Center for Food Integrity facilitates the Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture, which was formed in 2016. Many consumers and other stakeholders are unfamiliar with gene editing — both the science behind it and the promise ahead. The Coalition has a mission to cultivate support for responsible use gene editing in agriculture, and Coalition participants believe it is important to engage stakeholders in that process.

What is the Framework for Responsible Use of Gene Editing in Agriculture? Why is it needed?

The Framework for Responsible Use of Gene Editing in Agriculture was developed by the Coalition to provide principles organizations can follow to build trust with the food system. Each principle within the Framework includes commitments and guidance that provide objective evidence that an organization is operating in conformance with the Framework.

Download the most recent version of the Framework.

Agriculture and food system leaders feel it is important to openly and transparently communicate with stakeholders about how gene editing technology is being used as more products begin to enter the marketplace.

How can a person, company or organization become involved in the Coalition?

Companies, businesses and academic or government organizations that use gene editing or its outputs in food or agriculture are invited to join the Coalition and adopt the Framework. Organizations can choose from three membership levels. Contact to learn which option is best for your organization.

How can those interested stay up-to-date on the Coalition’s activities and gene editing technology in general?

To subscribe to the CFI newsletter, sign up here. For more on gene editing and many other food production developments, visit Best Food Facts. For media inquiries, contact Jana McGuire.