When might farmers access gene-edited varieties, and will they know what they’re growing?

Ultra early spring wheat seeding trial at Edmonton — AAFC

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s third and final ruling announced Friday on gene-editing for crop variety development clears the path for this precise, cost-effective plant breeding tool to be used in Canada.

Does this mean farmers will have access to new drought-resistant or nitrogen-efficient varieties for next year? Not so fast, says Krista Thomas, vice-president trade policy and seed innovation for the Canada Grains Council.

The clarity provided by CFIA opens the door for exciting new leaps forward in plant breeding, but it will take time for new varieties to make it through the registration process and seed multiplication years, just like any other new line. The key here is that gene-edited lines will not go through the genetically-modified registration process and resulting lines are not considered “GMO.”

Plus, there are still some key market acceptance pieces to be put in place — especially in key export markets — before farmers will see large-scale access to gene-edited varieties.

One thing for sure, Thomas says, is that varieties or hybrids that derive from gene-editing will be designated in such a way that farmers will know well ahead of time what they are growing and if a particular variety will require any added segregation or paperwork.

Listen/watch the full interview with Thomas, where she explains how gene-editing technology works, how it might be applied, and more on how farmers will access new varieties:

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