Saturday March 25, 2017

Are we prepared for our gene altered future?

A biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in the city on February 11, 2016 in Piracicaba, Brazil.

A biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in the city on February 11, 2016 in Piracicaba, Brazil. (Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)

Listen 7:54

White button mushrooms that don't brown. Crops resistant to infection. Lab-grown meat. Chickenless eggs. Fragrant moss for your home. Gene drives to wipe out pest species. Even synthetic embryos for research. The list of new biotech products in development goes on and on.

Part of this biotech boom comes from the advent of CRISPR-Cas9. It's a powerful gene editing technology, It allows scientists to literally, and quite easily, find, cut, copy, and paste any genetic information they want.

But the impending genetic boom goes beyond CRISPR and could have very wide-reaching implications - from feeding billions, to curing disease, to improving animal welfare. Those are the upsides. They could also have dire unintended consequences, for human health or even by disrupting entire ecosystems.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences just put out a new report called, "Preparing for Future Products of Biotechnology." Dr. Jennifer Kuzma was on the committee that prepared the report. She is a Professor in the School of Public Affairs in North Carolina State University's Genetic Engineering and Society Center.

She says with the number of genetically engineered products coming down the pipeline, regulators are at a critical point when they need to make sure they're ready for the impending biotechnology boom.

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