Government regulations that lump all types of genetic engineering together, instead of making reasonable distinctions between differing technologies, is stifling research, favors the efforts of large and wealthy corporations, and does little or nothing to protect the public safety, says Steven Strauss, a professor of forest science at Oregon State University.
In a policy report to be published Friday in Science, one of the leading international journals of scientific research, Strauss argues that the time has come to dramatically reduce the level of government regulations when genetic engineering is based on "native or homologous" genes, or those commonly found within related plant species.
This could free up the energies of small companies and university scientists to produce valuable new products, continue the green revolution into new areas, and can be done with very high levels of environmental safety, he said.
"For centuries with conventional crop breeding we created plants that never before existed in nature, and no one thought twice about it," Strauss said. "Now, as it becomes increasingly easier and less expensive to map out the genomes of different crop plants, we have an opportunity to make similar and more precisely designed types of changes with genetic engineering. But the current environment of regulations and oversight is making this almost impossible for all but large, wealthy companies."
In the early days of genetic engineering, Strauss said, it was in fact more common for very unusual genes to be inserted into a plant that never would have naturally contained such a trait for instance, a gene for h
Contact: Steven Strauss
Oregon State University