Letter regarding: “Crispr gene-editing will change the way Americans eat – here’s what’s coming” 30 May 2019

By Jeffrey Smith

To the Guardian.

Your May 30, 2019 article about Crispr gene-editing of food missed the world-changing implications of the global “gene rush” underway. With cheap gene-altering technology in hand, thousands of labs are scrambling to commercialize new GMOs. Everything with DNA is up for grabs—algae, bacteria, fish, trees, insects, all of it.

Here’s two glaring points you missed.

  1. Once released, gene-edited organisms crossbreed and contaminate the gene pool—irreversibly.

Unlike chemical spills, genetic pollution spreads over time. Now multiply that by tens of thousands of lab-altered species. A better headline for your article might have been:

Gene Editing May Replace Nature

  • The most common result of genetic engineering is surprise side-effects.

Recent articles in Nature Biotechnology, Nature Communications, Genome Biology, Trends in Plant Science and The Plant Genome all reveal that CRISPR—biotech’s poster child for a better world—produces unexpected, potentially life-threatening outcomes. Perhaps your headline should have read:

High Risk Gene Editing Gambles Future of All Living Beings

Widespread implementation of genetic engineering, in its current infant stage, carries threats on the order of global climate change. Please stop writing just about changing the American diets. It’s like a climate change article that says, “Prepare for more sunny days at the beach this summer.”

With the hands-off government policies in the US, Australia, and Japan, gene editing can change everything… and not in a good way.

Perhaps someone should tell Extinction Rebellion.

Jeffrey Smith is the Executive Director of The Institute for Responsible Technology, and Co-Director of the recent film Secret Ingredients.

References:

Repair of double-strand breaks induced by CRISPR–Cas9 leads to large deletions and complex rearrangements

Michael Kosicki, Kärt Tomberg & Allan Bradley

Nature Biotechnology, 16 July 2018

https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt.4192

CRISPR/Cas9 targeting events cause complex deletions and insertions at 17 sites in the mouse genome.

Shin HY1,2, Wang C1, Lee HK1,3, Yoo KH1,4, Zeng X1, Kuhns T1, Yang CM1, Mohr T1, Liu C5, Hennighausen L1. Nature Communications

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28561021

CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing induces exon skipping by alternative splicing or exon deletion

Haiwei Mou†, Jordan L. Smith†, Lingtao Peng, Hao Yin, Jill Moore, Xiao-Ou Zhang, Chun-Qing Song, Ankur Sheel, Qiongqiong Wu, Deniz M. Ozata, Yingxiang Li, Daniel G. Anderson, Charles P. Emerson, Erik J. Sontheimer, Melissa J. MooreEmail author, Zhiping WengEmail author and Wen Xue, Genome Biology

https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-017-1237-8

Zhu C, Bortesi L, Baysal C, Twyman RM, Fischer R, Capell T, Schillberg S and Christou P (2017). Characteristics of genome editing mutations in cereal crops. Trends in Plant Science 22:38–52.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27645899

Wolt JD, Wang K, Sashital D and Lawrence-Dill CJ (2016). Achieving plant CRISPR targeting that limits off-target effects. The Plant Genome 9: doi: 10.3835/plantgenome2016.05.0047

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27902801