Gene-editing in plant breeding has one last regulatory hurdle to clear: feed

Several government departments, consultations, and decisions are converging to clear a path for gene-editing technology to be approved as a breeding technique for conventional crops. That’s right, if the last hurdle can be cleared — approval of gene-edited plants for livestock feed — a variety or cultivar produced with gene-editing techniques would be considered non-novel and non-genetically modified (GMO) by Canadian standards.

On Wednesday, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau announced that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would move forward with Part 5 of the Seed Regulations, in line with Health Canada’s decision a year ago. That decision set out that gene-editing was considered “non-novel” and would be treated as such through the regulatory system.

As Pierre Petelle, president and CEO of CropLife Canada, explains, there are three regulatory hurdles gene-editing has to clear: health, environment and livestock. Health Canada gave its approval last summer. Wednesday’s announcement was a clearing of the second pillar around environment. Now, it’s on to a consultation and assessment of gene-editing of plants intended for feed.

Petelle explains the consultation for this final pillar has not yet started, but it is possible that it could move quickly and we could see a decision as early as this fall, seeing as much of the framework for analysis is in place from the health assessment.

For a discussion on the impact of the final approval, to the role of gene-editing in plant breeding, the economics at play, intellectual property considerations, and Canada’s global competitiveness, listen to the full interview below:

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