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Opinion
The Editors

Realize the Promise of Gene-Edited Crops

Europe and the U.S. should avoid an all-or-nothing approach to regulating plants made with Crispr.

A new tool for editing genes.

A new tool for editing genes.

Photographer: Gregor Fischer/picture alliance via Getty Images

Crispr is coming to the farm. The gene-editing tool, best known for its potential to prevent disease and fight cancer, is now being used to improve corn, wheat, rice, mushrooms and much else. It could lead to hardier, more plentiful crops and tastier, cheaper, more nutritious food. The problem is that Europe and the U.S. are both pursuing flawed approaches to regulating products made with Crispr — and could well impede its progress.

Crispr is a kind of molecular scissors that scientists can use to change or delete DNA sequences easily and cheaply. It’s being wielded in plant genes to create desired new traits — resistance to disease, for instance, or tolerance to drought. Theoretically, this is merely a faster way of achieving what farmers have long accomplished with traditional techniques, such as seed selection, cross-breeding or mutagenesis.