In early September, an international committee released its report
on human gene editing. It recommended that the technology should be more reliable and that broad public consultations should take place before allowing its clinical use. There is nothing binding in the recommendations, so the commission laid out some guidelines for its use if countries decided to proceed with human gene editing. “Incrementally and cautiously” the commission said.
Meanwhile gene editing in agriculture started with crops and is gaining more acceptance as the agri-food industry sees the value of the new technology. Unlike genetic modification, gene editing makes a change in the existing genes in an organism and does not involve adding genes from another organism or species. It also tends to be more exact than genetic modification. As it becomes more sophisticated, gene editing has the potential to re-shape agriculture.
But it is a new and developing tool that comes with ethical dilemmas when applied to animals and people.
Ellen Goddard is a professor in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Science at the University of Alberta and also works with several of our funded projects. She talked with freelance broadcaster Don Hill about the implications of gene editing in agriculture and in humans.