Snip, snip, snip. Swedish scientists used novel technology to precisely remove a small segment of DNA from cabbage plant seeds. Then those seeds were cultivated outside the lab.
Recently the fully grown cabbage was served with pasta for what could very well be the world's first gene-edited meal. The result was...actually quite tasty, according to the radio reporter who ate it.
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Scientists at Umeå University developed a tool in 2012 called "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats" also known as CRISPR-Cas9. Dubbed the "Swiss Army knife of genetic engineering," this technique can precisely edit DNA, according to a university press release.
Stefan Jansson, a professor of plant cell and molecular biology at Umeå University, used CRISPR on cabbage, removing a protein known as PsbS, which helps dissipate excess light energy. A similar mutation can occur naturally. He germinated the seeds in May, and then last weekend cooked the world's first dinner based on a CRISPR genome-edited plant. He pan-fried the cabbage, and served it with other veggies and herbs from his personal garden, local hard cheese, and pasta for Radio Sweden reporter Gustaf Klarin.
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"Both of us ate with great relish," Jansson wrote in a blog post describing the dinner. "Gustaf even thought the cabbage was the best tasting vegetable on the plate. And I agreed."
So, what's the difference between the Umeå University process and genetically modifying organisms (GMOs) to eat? Well, after intense debate, authorities in the United States and Sweden concluded that produce edited using CRISPR doesn't fall into the GMO category because genes are removed but no new ones are added, MailOnline reported.
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To point out that anti-GMO sentiments run high in Europe, and to a certain extent in the U.S., is a huge understatement. At the risk of really stepping in it, I don't think it's fair or accurate to call all genetically-modified organisms "bad." Do consumers have a right to know what they're eating? Absolutely. At the same time, key scientific advancements have saved crucial crops from disappearing.
Livelihoods and lives hang in the balance here. I want to believe there is hope that environmentalists, scientists, government officials, and agribusinesses can eventually find reasonable common ground. Agreement tastes so much sweeter.
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