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VIDEO: Gene editing dilemma continues

Gene editing, the new technology taking the biomedical world by storm, is posing a problem for policymakers in Europe after years of conflict over genetically modified food. Stuart McDill reports.

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Gene editing, the new technology taking the biomedical world by storm, is posing a problem for policymakers in Europe after years of conflict over genetically modified food. Stuart McDill reports.

European regulators are putting off deciding how to describe plants like these

After years of conflict over the safety of genetically modified , or GM plants - enter gene editing - a new technique sweeping the world of biotech

But should it be subject to the same stringent regulation ?

Professor Wendy Harwood's gene editing is increasing this crop's yield

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She says what she is doing is not genetic modification because no foreign DNA stays in the plant after the editing process

"So it's not like GM where you're actually inserting new genes. With gene editing you're making a small change and there's nothing left in the plants we've created."

Unlike genetic modification where a gene is added from another organism, gene-editing involves targeting a specific gene then deleting or amending it.

The world's first pigs have been edited in the States, making them resistant to a common pig virus and US consumers can now buy a mushroom that doesn't go brown - examples why Europe should call this genetic modification - according to molecular biologist Dr David King.

"I think it's really a piece of opportunism to suggest that it's different from genetic modification because in essence what you are doing is you are manipulating the DNA of a living organism in a very targetted way. It happens to involve a slightly different set of molecules than are used in conventional genetic engineering but the results are the same and they are very different from classical breeding techniques."

If gene editing ever makes it onto a European farm - is up to the regulators and whether or not they impose the same restrictions as GM products.

Two deadlines for that decision have been and gone...And no new one has been set.

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