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Policy reports 30.10.2014

CRISPR-Cas - Revolution from the lab

(CGM/141030-01)

In recent years great strides forward have been made with techniques for introducing targeted changes in the hereditary material, collectively called ‘gene editing’ or ‘genome editing’. These new techniques raise questions about the limitations and scope of the legislation governing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). COGEM has drawn attention to these new developments in previous topic and advisory reports.

A new technology that makes use of the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) and their associated protein (Cas), abbreviated to CRISPR-Cas or CRISPR, promises to considerably speed up the advances being made in genome editing. In a very short time CRISPR has been taken up in numerous fields of research.

This report discusses the technical aspects of the CRISPR-Cas system, the possibilities that the system offers for both medical and agricultural applications, the possible risks and whether CRISPR-Cas applications and their products should fall under the GMO regulations. It describes the need for the EU to decide on the status of the new biotechnological techniques in general, and CRISPR-Cas in particular, and on the need for a possible revision of the EU GMO legislation.