Regulation Plant Biotech 2.0: CRISPR potato as a case study

Date: 13th June 2018

Time: 1:00-3:00 pm

Venue: Banquet Hall (Festsaal Erweiterung), University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

Chairs: 

Per Sandin, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala 

Karin Edvardsson Björnberg, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm 

Helena Röcklinsberg, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala 

Mickey Gjerris, University of Copenhagen

Corresponding Organizer:

Per Sandin (per.sadnin(at)slu.se [Link 1])

Context and Aims:

Potatoes are as staple food in many areas of the world. It is also a food with strong cultural significance, not least in Northern Europe. 

A main component of potatoes is starch. Starch consists of amylose and amylopectin. The first substance has a low glycemic index and is consequently regarded as being healthier. At the same time, there is a multitude of industrial applications for both amylose and amylopectin on their own. Within a Swedish research program (Mistra Biotech) a potato that produces starch with more amylose and an altered amylopectin structure has been developed using the technology of of RNA interference (RNAi). A new, similar, amylose potato, is currently being developed using directed mutagenesis with the aid of the CRISPR/Cas9 technique. 

Such technologies are currently in a state of regulatory uncertainty in the EU. It is yet unclear whether they will be classified as GMOs or not. In the former case, their introduction will be surrounded with a complex and lengthy review procedure, in the latter case not. This has far-reaching consequences for the commercialization of such crops. 

Using the Low-GI CRISPR potato as a starting point, we will discuss the ethical underpinnings and challenging of regulating such crops, i.e. plants developed with new types of genetic engineering with intended health benefits (and other non-agronomic benefits). 

Contributions will be in the form of shorter presentations from confirmed contributors: 

Dennis Eriksson, Researcher at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), expert on plant biotechnology and policy issues 

Paul B. Thompson, W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural Food, and Community Ethics at Michigan State University 

Additional contributor(s) to be decided 

Key Questions:

  • Are there morally relevant differences between crops developed with CRISPR/Cas9 and other technologies?
  • How should this be reflected in regulation? 

Traget Group:

Plant breeding scientists, regulators and policy makers, biotech industry, other stakeholders in biotech regulation 

Key Words:

CRISPR/Cas9, genetic engineering, EU regulation