Advancements Through Gene Editing Offer Potential to Lower Food Costs

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Farmscape for January 25, 2023

Full Interview 12:16 Listen

The Agri-Food Innovation and Sustainability Enhancement Chair with the University of Saskatchewan is confident genetic improvements accomplished through gene editing will contribute to lower food prices in Canada. “Ethics, Regulators and the Public” was discussed as part of a Swine Innovation Porc panel discussion on gene editing, held in conjunction with the 2023 Banff Pork Seminar. Dr. Stuart Smyth, an associate professor and the Agrifood Innovation and Sustainability Enhancement Chair with the University of Saskatchewan, says gene editing offers to increase the innovative capacity of food production and hopefully contribute to keeping food prices a little bit lower in Canada.

Clip-Dr. Stuart Smyth-University of Saskatchewan:
I think that the major hurdle is going to be, will the regulatory system treat gene edited livestock as equivalent to conventional livestock?
If that doesn’t occur, then it’s going to increase the amount of time it takes to get new livestock through any type of a regulatory system.
One of the challenges that we have in Canada is we don’t currently have a regulatory system for gene edited livestock so having to develop that system from scratch would be a significant time requirement and there’s no evidence so far that the risk is there to justify the development of such a system.

I think that the main thing to look at would be, are there any changes at the genetic level that would be different from any other breeding technique that’s being used in any aspect of agriculture? If the risk of using of gene editing to change a gene is no different than other targeted breeding technologies, the science is indicating that the risk from any of those potential varieties or resulting offspring would be as safe as any other technology.

Dr. Smyth suggests it’s important to look at the risk perspective and, if the technology is not changing the risk, then we don’t need to be regulating it because increased cost of regulation is one of the contributors to higher food prices.

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