Monsanto has successfully negotiated the first commercial license to use the Crispr technology developed by the Harvard-MIT Broad Institute. This breakthrough in genetics allows scientists to precisely alter genes such that the plant is not technically considered a GMO. As this article in Business Insider explains, “Crispr allows scientists to simply swap out a letter or two of the plant’s genetic code…and replace it with another one that would [for example] prevent the crop from turning brown” (Brodwin, 2016). Because this would modifying the plant’s genes with those from another organism like a bacteria, as in traditional biotechnology, the product would potentially not be regulated in the same was as other GMOs.
While not the only institution or company with patented (or soon to be) CRISP technology, the intellectual property portfolio of the Broad Institute puts Monsanto in a strong position to continue its dominance in the development of new GMO crops.
But there is more — Monsanto, scientists at the Broad Institute, and other biotech advocates are predicting that Crispr technology will end the “war” over GE crops. Given the flood of research dollars going towards crops modified with Crispr technology, look for lots more science to come. Hygeia Analytics will be on the lookout for news on this topic so stay tuned.
Note in the story the comment in this vein by Dr. George Church, one of the Harvard/Broad Institute scientists: “I hope people wake up one day and realize, ‘Hey, almost everything is GM’ — it’s in the air, on our bodies, in our medicine. Maybe we can get over the GM foods controversy.” Maybe not this week…
Erin Brodwin, “Monsanto may have just ended the war on GMOs,” September 22, 2016, Business Insider