Plant genome editing is a technology that attracts much social and regulatory debate: INRA has defined a strategy for the use of these new techniques to acquire new knowledge and in plant breeding. The principles underlying this strategy are in line with the Institute’s values and with its ambition to contribute to environmental, social and economic progress. INRA developed its strategy based on the recommendations of an opinion issued by the INRA-CIRAD-IFREMER Joint Consultative Ethics Committee in the spring of 2018, along with the opinion of its Scientific Advisory Board, issued last September.
INRA strategy for plant genome editing technologies: institut.inra.fr/en/Research-and-results/Strategies/All-the-news/INRA-strategy-for-plant-genome-editing-technologies
Opinion of Ethics Committee (in French): institut.inra.fr/Missions/Promouvoir-ethique-et-deontologie/Avis-du-comite-d-ethique/Questions-ethiques-et-politiques-posees-par-l-edition-du-genome-des-vegetaux
What is genome editing?
Genome editing technologies are used to create modifications (point mutations, deletions or insertions) in an organism’s DNA. Site-specific nucleases (e.g. meganucleases, TALENs, Cas9) are used to cut double-stranded DNA into specific target sequences. The process used to repair the cut generates, depending on the method, the inactivation of the target gene by small insertions or deletions, the modification of one or several base pairs in the target sequence, or the insertion of a DNA fragment. It also recently became possible to use deactivated nucleases to create point mutations without cutting the DNA. These techniques make it possible to study gene function and the regulatory sequences driving their expression. In some countries, the techniques are used in plant breeding to precisely modify target genes that determine traits of interest.
On the 25th of July 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union classified as genetically modified organisms plants whose genome was modified using genome editing technologies. This means that they are subject to the same process as transgenic plants, including risk assessment, authorisation, traceability and labelling, even in the case of modifications without the introduction of exogenous DNA fragments.