The safety of genome-editing techniques relies on two premises: 1) Changes only in the intended places and 2) Only the changes intended. However, off-target effects may occur, and the more off-target activity there is, the more likely unintended and potentially adverse effects might arise. In addition, the DNA modification that results may show large variation, with many knowledge gaps remaining.
The author calls for proper regulation and mandatory risk assessment for genome-edited products. It is crucial that regulators ask for experimental evidence to address potential adverse effects of genome-editing techniques in order to avoid a vacuum in the risk assessment of such organisms.
Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety will meet in Cancún, Mexico from 4th to 17th December, where the issue of synthetic biology, of which genome-editing is a supporting technology, will be discussed. It is critical that the biosafety and risk assessment aspects of genome-editing techniques are considered, so as to ensure that robust and comprehensive regulatory oversight is provided for synthetic biology.
Read the entire Biosafety Briefing.
Author Sarah Agapito-Tenfen, published by TWN – Third World Network.
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