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Is it imaginable that with the growth of the science and the smaller restrictions on CRISPR, that well finally see some small local or regional GMO companies? I actually understand the point made by a lot of environmentalists regarding the fact that GMOs are often profit-oriented, and controlled by a few (I imagine less than 10) big companies, but that's mostly because of the price of R&D, which is high mostly because of the irrational fear regarding GMOs that most people feel. I know there's public GMOs, but those take forever, in part because of protesters destroying the test fields. But with the advent of CRISPR and the decision not to label it nor put it under the same restrictions than traditional engineering, would it be possible to see a lot of start-up seed companies develloping GMOs for different people and reason?

Submitted by: Jules Chauvin


Expert response from Dr. Stuart Smyth

Assistant Professor, Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics, University of Saskatchewan

Thursday, 07/12/2018 15:47

There would be more public seed development if genome editing technologies like CRISPR are not regulated as GMOs. Single point mutations are an extension of the undirected mutation breeding that is commonly used now. Having genome editing regulated like conventional plant breeding would allow university plant breeders to use the technology to develop new varieties without the stigmatism of them being GMOs.

As for would it allow for more start-up seed companies, this is more doubtful. It is possible this could occur, but it requires a substantial investment to start a seed company. To get a new variety approved, it still has to meet all the agronomic qualities of a particular type of crop, which requires scale-up, field trials and quality analysis. Because genome editing is cheaper and faster than previous technologies, the advantage lies with the seed companies already in the market. They can get new varieties to market quicker than a start-up company probably would be able to.

There are currently some smaller seed development companies in the market and they may be able to expand the number and type of varieties they presently offer, due to genome editing. These companies tend to be local or regional in nature and would be able to develop varieties that meet the needs of their clients in these areas.

It is possible that start-up companies could develop, I happen to think the capital costs to do so might be prohibitive. However, entrepreneurs may be able to identify a niche in the market and unique ways of funding these innovative ventures that allow them to enter the market.