Japanese committee recommends no regulation for some gene editing

A government committee in Japan has garnered criticism after recommending that certain forms of gene editing in plants and animals should not be regulated.

The expert committee, convened by the Ministry of the Environment, recommended on Monday that only genetic editing involving exogenous genes (genes from outside the organism) should be regulated. Gene editing that involves switching off or deleting genes already present in the genetic code of organisms should not require government approval, the committee said.

The committee did, however, recommend the creation of a thoroughgoing information management system on organisms with edited genomes, under which the type and purpose of all organisms that fell outside GMO restrictions would have to be reported to the authorities with an exception of those produced at closed facilities for microorganisms.

Consumer groups criticised the recommendations, saying that there is no difference between gene editing that turns off genes and gene editing that introduces new genes.

“They (the committee) came to this conclusion after just two meetings. How can they say it's safe?”, said Consumers Union of Japan secretariat chief Michiyo Koketsu. “We need a debate that includes a wide range of experts, not just a small section of the research community”.

The regulation of gene editing of crops and animals differs in jurisdictions around the world. In late July, the European Union's top court ruled that crops created using genome editing methods should in principle come under existing law regulating Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). In contrast, the United State’s Department of Agriculture announced in late March that it did not plan to regulate CRISPR-edited crops in the same was as GMOs.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | crispr, european union, gene editing, japan, us

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