Gene editing and genetic modification might sound like the same thing, but in the world of food science, the distinction is important.
"Gene editing," or the process of cutting and pasting segments of DNA, has made its way into the agricultural industry. In this New York Times article, we learn that this new way of genetically-altering food aims to enhance nutritional value, increase shelf life, and improve crop yields. Real-life examples include soybeans that have healthier fatty acids, potatoes that stay fresh for a longer time, and wheat that has an increased resistance to fungal diseases.
The goals stated above are not so different from that of the G.M.O. movement, so what makes gene-edited crops so different from genetically modified crops? The latter, which is associated with big-name companies like Monsanto, Dupont, and Syngenta, involves inserting genes from other organisms (usually bacteria) into the crop's genome. In contrast, gene editing deals solely with altering the genes that already exist within the crop. This process more closely mimics nature in that a random mutation could technically have caused the same result.
Although many see gene editing technology as a major improvement, others are already fearing a repeat of the controversies that exist within the G.M.O. movement. As of right now, gene editing is not included in current regulations, and the FDA has yet to explain if, when, and how the regulations will be adjusted.