Is the Fight over GMO's History?

The Lempert Report
July 26, 2017

DuPont Pioneer has developed a new strain of drought-resistant waxy corn, that is, genetically edited corn which some say is a revolution.

The corn will probably be the first plant to market developed through the cutting-edge genome-editing technique called CRISPR-Cas. 

And it seems like Dupont has learned from the plight of its rival Monsanto who has spent millions battling the fallout from its own GMO crops. 

DuPont Pioneer, is developing a program to proactively neutralize skeptical consumers — and doing it years before their crops will even be available. The company recently began hosting CRISPR focus groups and launched a website on the technique, complete with animated videos. 

“It’s more about social science than science,” said Neal Gutterson, the vice president of research and development at DuPont Pioneer. “[It’s] ultimately about getting social license for this technology.” 

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 40 percent of Americans believe GMOs are bad for their health. This assertion is not supported by science, which has concluded that the genetically modified crops on the market are safe for consumption. 

But with CRISPR — a breakthrough gene-editing tool — the field gets a chance at its first real do-over. Unlike conventional genetic modification, CRISPR works directly on the DNA of the plant or animal being bred. While GMOs, as we have traditionally known them, involve inserting target DNA from a different species, CRISPR can directly “edit” an organism’s DNA for a result that falls within the genetic diversity of that animal or plant. So nothing foreign is being inserted into the host DNA.

The Agriculture Department has indicatedthat it does not intend to regulate the CRISPR-edited corn because its creation does not involve any plant pests' genetic materials. 

However, when it comes to human genome editing, consumers may still resist the technology and unpack their picket signs. DuPont Pioneer’s response is being proactive and pointing out “For GMOs, they waited until the product hit the market before there was a lot of communication,” Their approach is to create a two-way engagement. We will see if it works.