God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and The Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing

Published today in Independent Science News, “God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and The Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing” was written by Jonathan Latham, PhD.

crispr-cas9-300x166Synopsis:  According to the media, “genome editing” techniques can precisely alter the DNA of living organisms. Furthermore, these new genetic engineering techniques are so “red-hot” and “game-changing” they will transform the landscapes of medicine and agriculture. Their safety and effectiveness hinges crucially on the claim of precision, yet how plausible is it? This article delineates three ways in which these technologies currently lack precision. 1) Present versions of CRISPR and other technologies are error prone and unpredictable. 2) Even if they were precise, purposeful manipulation of DNA depends on understanding of its functions, which we largely lack 3) CRISPR boosters are proceeding on a commonplace but faulty premise of gene function that is not supported by science. They have a dangerously narrow vision of how DNA influences traits that frames risk assessment as unnecessary.

Read the full article “God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and The Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing” at: http://www.independentsciencenews.org/science-media/gods-red-pencil-crispr-and-the-three-myths-of-precise-genome-editing/

Additional Reading: Scientific reports and articles about novel genetic engineering techniques and their regulation:

Cotter, J., Zimmermann, D. & van Bekkem, H. 2015. ‘Application of the EU and Cartagena definitions of a GMO to the classification of plants developed by cisgenesis and gene-editing techniques‘. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report (Review) 07-2015.

Steinbrecher, R. 2015. ‘Genetic Engineering in Plants and the “New Breeding Techniques (NBTs)”. Inherent risks and the need to regulate‘. Econexus Briefing.

Lin, Yanni, et al. “CRISPR/Cas9 systems have off-target activity with insertions or deletions between target DNA and guide RNA sequences.” Nucleic acids research (2014): gku402.

Fichtner, Franziska, Reynel Urrea Castellanos, and Bekir Ülker. “Precision genetic modifications: a new era in molecular biology and crop improvement.” Planta 239.4 (2014): 921-939. Available on ResearchGate.