CRISPR

Break Up Big Seed!

Don't regulate modern safe crops created using CRISPR gene-editing.

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CRISPRWellcome
Wellcome

Regulation killed biotech crop innovation. In the 1980s, at the dawn of the crop biotechnology era, scores of startups eagerly applied new bioengineering techniques to modify and enhance crop varieties. They have all vanished. Now the good news: The new CRISPR gene-editing technology may revive and restore competition and variety to the seed market. But only if activists and regulators stay out of the way.

Today activists argue that the big four crop biotech companies—Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer, Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences—have monopolized the world's seed markets, commanding more than half the world's commercial seed supply. In the U.S. they sell 80 percent of seed corn and 70 percent of soybeans planted. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice launched an antitrust investigation of Monsanto, but it ultimately decided not to take action.

Long gone are the myriad early agbiotech startups—DNA Plant Technology, Agracetus, Crop Genetics International, Advanced Genetic Sciences, Biotechnica Agriculture, United Agriseeds, Molecular Genetics, Agrigenetics, and so on. Researchers at Calgene, founded in 1980, predicted that the first commercial biotech crops would be in the field by 1988. Instead, the first successful commercial biotech crops were not deployed until 1996. By the mid-1990s, most of the independent agbioech startups were no more; many of them had been bought up by the big chemical companies that now dominate commercial crop biotechnology.

CRISPRCorn
Dupont

Consequently, the seed market for most commercial crops is highly concentrated. This is largely the result of regulation. Thanks to anti-biotech agitation, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Department of Agriculture cobbled together a system for regulating biotech crops in the 1980s. Over time, the rules have become ever more rococo. As a result, according to one recent industry estimate, it costs $136 million to get a new crop variety from discovery through the regulatory approval process. These costs pose a huge barrier to entry for any startups that might want to introduce a new genetically enhanced tomato, spinach, artichoke, or apple, much less extensively planted field crops like corn, soybean, and canola.

Enter CRISPR, a new genome editing technique that enables bioengineers to essentially change and rearrange bits of DNA sequence in an organism's genome wherever they want. The chief factor fueling the strict regulation of agricultural biotechnology is the fear that genes transferred among microorganisms, animals, and plants would somehow get out of control. Yet CRISPR does not necessarily involve moving DNA from one organism to another.

CRISPRMushrooms
Natural Society

For example, the Pennsylvania State plant pathologist Yinong Yang has used the technique to engineer the common white button mushroom to resist browning. He did that by using CRISPR to delete a few base pairs from a gene. In October, Yang asked the USDA if his edited mushroom requires the agency's approval to grow and market. In April, the agency replied that since the mushroom contained no foreign DNA, it did not fall under its regulations.

Some researchers in Israel have used CRISPR to create cucumbers that resist several plant disease viruses. Again, since no foreign genes or DNA was introduced into the pickle precursors, they should not fall under the purview of current U.S. biotech regulations. Similarly, British researchers have used CRISPR to change how seeds develop in barley and broccoli. Chinese researchers have used gene-editing to create a wheat variety that resists powdery mildew.

Sadly, some activists are calling crop varieties created by CRISPR "hidden GMOs" and are demanding that they be regulated. Why "hidden"? Because there is no easy way to tell a crop variety modified using CRISPR from one that has not been modified, except that one does not, say, die of viral infections. In other words, "hidden" amounts to "virtually indistinguishable." Nevertheless, Friends of the Earth has called for a ban on the commercialization and release of all such CRISPR-enhanced crops.

Since there is no safety or environmental difference between the gene-edited and conventional versions of these foods, there should be no difference in how they are regulated. If activists really want to break up Big Seed, they should support rather than oppose the use of CRISPR to create new crop varieties.

NEXT: Upcoming Cato Institute forum on the new edition of my book "Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter"

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  1. And to think, I had thought the Butlerian Jihad an absurd concept.

    1. Not as absurd as all of your ancestors’ memories living in your genes. But I love Dune anyway.

      1. I know it’s not exactly the same thing, but pregnant crickets exposed to spiders release chemicals to it’s incubating offspring that activate genes that tell them to be superduper afraid of spiders when they hatch. Or at least more so than the offspring of pregnant crickets that were not exposed to the spiders.

        1. I wonder if there is a Kwisatz Haderach cricket somewhere who knows where all the spiders are.

          1. The Golden Hop?

          2. Chester Cricket.

            One of the first books I ever read as a *very* young Groovus.

          3. According to the argument routinely used to discredit atheism, it would be impossible to claim there isn’t a Kwisatz Haderach cricket…somewhere.

        2. I guess we could explain it as heritable epigenetic traits.

          1. Nonsense; you think mitochondria are merely the powerhouse of the eukarotic cell? The amount of information they can store….

            My wife is a Bene Gesserit*, HM; she has told me things…..

            *Yes, I am imprinted, not that it was much a of challenge for her.

            1. Then how did Paul get the memories of his male ancestors?

              1. He didn’t. The sheer volume of psychoactive substances in his bloodstream would make Florida Man balk. He was tripping balls for years.

              2. Then how did Paul get the memories of his male ancestors?

                In the Bene Gesserit orgy Breeding Programme, one of the things they were able to isolate is males whose gametes could actually pass along mDNA (which is why they were chosen and his Bene Gesserit wife would be told to breed a specific sex with a very particular genetic makeup). They could quite literally sniff out potential breeding stock along with predicting (pretty accurately) which being would have the necessary DNA genome to unlock all those stored mDNA memories.

                Remember, the power of the Bene Gesserit olfactory sense is nothing to sneeze at…

                1. Well, there you go.

          2. Hey U HM U,
            “I guess we could explain it as heritable epigenetic traits.”
            Please don’t laugh now? Seriously? There’s just some things we don’t KNOW about Momma Nature, and what tricks She might have up Her sleeves? If some tiny snippet of “Lamarkianism” is true, via some unknown facet of epigenetics or similar? It would be ASTOUNDING to learn of such things!
            You know of any aspiring Master’s or PhD’s in biology or biochem who need a research topic? And who are not afraid to investigate an unconventional hypothesis? Then please steer them to an off-the-beaten-path web site I have discovered, at http://www.rocketslinger.com/SemiLamarckism/ ? This proposes an experiment with verifiable results, we are not talking Trofim D. Lysenko here? Would be cool to see the experiment run? PLEASE pass it on!

  2. In the walls of Ron’s cubicle there were three orifices…

    1. Glory Orifices?

    2. “Offices?”
      “ORIFICES!”
      “Aaaah!”

  3. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Ron wants to be arrested as a denier!

    1. Deniers will sent out on the ice floe.

      1. Or fed into the DeathStill, since that seems to be where we’re going with this thread.

  4. The anti-GMO activists strategy is to try to do to biotechnology what they did to nuclear power – which is to tie it up in so many regulations it is economically non-viable.
    Everything they advocate – from labeling laws to testing requirements, is designed for this purpose.

    The claims about corporate control are a red herring. Does anyone imagine that if there were hundreds of biotech companies they would be any less against the technology?

    1. It also doesn’t help that the average person wants to label food that contains DNA.

      1. well I’d certainly want to know if my food contained DNA. There wouldn’t be much purpose if it didn’t would there?

        I’m not sure fast food actually has DNA though.

        1. Also note this about “Big Seed”:

          All that them thar Wild Wimmen, they’s bin tryin’ ta bust my “Big Seeder”…

          (Maybe Government Almighty has them a-scared of my “monopoly powers” and they wanna “trust bust”)…

          But the GOOD NEWS is, NONE of them haz succeeded in busting mah “Big Seed/Seeder”!!!!

    2. …of course, just like any other government hyper-regulatory scheme, what they’ve done is made GMOs economically unviable for everyone except Monsanto.

      It takes a special kind of ignorance to be a non-elitist Prog.

  5. But only if activists and regulators stay out of the way.

    So, never.

    1. There’s that libertarian optimism

    2. Yup. Absent a grass roots movement to tell these twits to shut up, we’re fucked.

  6. But only if activists and regulators stay out of the way.

    L O FUCKING L

  7. CRISPR

    It may be a clever technique for shifting about nucleotides and base pairs, but the only my CRISPR is good for is making my veggies and fruits rot faster. They should call a CRISPR a ROTTR instead.

    When they can make Spice in the lab reliably, call me. Until then, not impressed.

    1. Spoken like a true Tleilaxu. You’re just bitter that your wife is an axlotl tank.

      1. We are all moving toward an axlotl state. Retention of fetal characteristics is one of the trends in evolution. Just look at the college campuses. Safe spaces are just a yearning for the safety of the womb.

        1. I keep hearing a newish song on the radio called “Stressed Out”, that’s all about being nostalgic and wishing he could return to the period of their lives when their mommies sang them songs and held their wittle hands. I think that’s the most millennial song ever made.

          1. “You think you know what stress is????? Try dodging the authorities of several central American countries, while trying to free the love of your life from her pimp and field thousands of inquiries about uninstalling software !!!” – McAfee

            1. “Why does the antivirus have a resource leak that forces me to reboot more often than I’d like?!”

    2. When you say “Spice,” are you referring to the melange essence found only on Arrakis, or the gas station marijuana substitute that my local news is always warning people about? Either one is good.

      1. He already makes one of them reliably in the lab, and since he didn’t predict your conundrum, I think we know which one.

        1. Gotcha. [seizes, falls over]

          1. [tazes Citizen X’s butthole to revive him]

            1. Dude! Not while i’m at work!

              1. It worked!

  8. Bailey wins the euphemism game.

    1. Sploosh!

    2. It’s not a game, Crusty.

      1. Your face isn’t a game.

        1. Connect the dots?

        2. Winston’s mom’s face IS a game.

          That game is Trouble.

          1. I thought the game was pretend you are Jackson Pollock.

  9. Looks like the CDC got jarred out of its e-cig nappypooh.

    U.S. military researchers have identified the first patient in the United States to be infected with bacteria resistant to an antibiotic that was the last resort against drug-resistant germs.

    The patient ? a 49-year-old woman in Pennsylvania ? has recovered, but the case raises the specter of superbugs that could cause untreatable infections, because the bacteria can easily transmit their resistance to other germs that are already resistant to additional antibiotics.

    1. But was she infected via vape sharing?

      1. That’s what they get for vaping butt hash. This the type of stuff the proactive British are gonna avoid.

      2. She was infected by a lurking, secret tranny hiding and pouncing in the CIS-Het shitlord bathroom!

        1. If we do not nip in the bud, lurking, secret trannies hiding and pouncing in the CIS-Het shitlord bathrooms, NOW, then THIS is what’s a-gonna happen NEXT!!!!

          http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/27/…..ke-toilet/

  10. “… but only if activists and regulators stay out of the way.”
    Hahahahahahahahahahahahha

  11. As a result, according to one recent industry estimate, it costs $136 million to get a new crop variety from discovery through the regulatory approval process.

    Science being science, the regulatory portion only counts for about 1/4 of the total figure. Not that the regulatory portion is justified but, IMO, objective scientists talking about excessive regulation would generally strive not to obfuscate the $36M with the $100M of unrelated and/or immutable costs.

      1. It’s the report that Bailey Linked. The break out costs by phase of discovery/construction/proliferation on pg. 7.

        1. Ooh everybody, look at mad.casual. He follows the links. Teacher’s pet.

        2. Who reads the articles?

          1. There are articles?

            1. I’ve heard rumors that there are articles near H&R…

          2. Are you kidding me? Financial breakdown on the research and regulatory costs of crop seed production! If it weren’t Summer planting season, I’d watch some High School athletics tonight and have the weekend pretty much wrapped up.

  12. I just saw video of Obama in Japan.

    Does anyone else find it weird that the Hiroshima Memorial has a torch?

    1. Would you prefer mushroom?

      1. That glowing rod of uranium from the Simpsons

  13. If I get one more “reply all” Memorial Day messaging telling me to remember why we celebrate, I may have to dispense of the bubblegum I am chewing and go kick some ass.

    1. Do you think George Washington was pissing and moaning about group texts telling him what memorial day is about when he was crossing the Rhine to assassinate baby Hitler? Stop hating America.

      1. The only reason why George and his Dalmatians was able to cross the Elbe to successfully attack the Phoenecians was that secret Ancient Aliens helped him!

    2. I’m sorry that people think you have a bad memory.

    3. If I get one more “reply all” Memorial Day messaging telling me to remember why we celebrate, I may have to dispense of the bubblegum I am chewing and go kick some ass.

      I swear to God I’ll drop a nuclear fucking bomb on this thread… Oh, right, Happy Memorial Day.

      1. [One handed clap with mutated claw hand]

    4. Crusty, everyone else’s comment is important, especially when it’s about an important subject like this and you just need to calm down and respectfully read every bit of repetitive drivel they spout.

    5. I live in Indianapolis, I know EXACTLY what Memorial Day is about:

      car races, hot dogs, beer, and boobs. (not necessarily in that order)

      1. I’ll be at the Indy in a few hours. You’ll find me in 8 hours drunk and setting off fireworks in a dumpster at Big Lots near the track.

  14. OT: For those of you looking to out why Chicago’s murder rate is so much higher than New York’s, I give you this story.

    Chicago has a reputation for strict gun laws, and gun rights advocates often point to it as proof that gun regulation doesn’t reduce violence. But its laws aren’t what they used to be: Federal courts struck down its ban on handgun ownership in 2010, and its ban on gun sales in 2014. And a New York Times analysis showed guns were easily available from nearby jurisdictions, especially Indiana.

    1. And Chicago is more lenient about illegal handguns than New York, prescribing a one-year minimum for possession versus three and a half years in New York. An attempt to match the New York law in 2013 was rejected by the Illinois legislature out of concern for skyrocketing incarceration rates for young black men.

      New York also hired a lot more police officers in response to the crime of the 1990s, and, during its stop-and-frisk era of the 2000s, steeply increased gun enforcement. Recent studies, including one that looked at increased police presence in London after a terrorist attack, have suggested more police might mean less crime, said Jens Ludwig, the director of Crime Lab at the University of Chicago, which studies crime in both Chicago and New York.

      Chicago’s Police Department, overwhelmed, can respond only to the most serious problems, leaving citizens to feel responsible for their own security, he said.

      1. New York also hired a lot more police officers in response to the crime of the 1990s, and, during its stop-and-frisk era of the 2000s, steeply increased gun enforcement.

        And they violated people’s Fourth Amendment rights. Does NYT not give a shit about poor, black men’s rights?

        In the same vein, the government could insert a tracking device under everyone’s skin. That would probably disincentivize people from committing crimes. Why not do it?

        1. Does NYT not give a shit about poor, black men’s rights?

          No, this has been established with evidence, repeatedly.

    2. A link from a worthless rag. Why do you give them the clicks, crusty?

      1. The link could have interest to the pro-2nd Amendment gun nuts that litter this thread. Plus, I thought it was interesting.

      2. Hey, the NYT is still worth something. You can use it to wrap fish in, or to start fires, or for dogs to shit on.

        1. And bird cage liner. That’s at least four things that make the NYT worthwhile!

          1. Five: use it to stuff up mouse holes in the baseboards.

          2. A hat, a broach, a pteradactyl!

    3. Chicago has a reputation for strict gun laws, and gun rights advocates often point to it as proof that gun regulation doesn’t reduce violence. But its laws aren’t what they used to be: Federal courts struck down its ban on handgun ownership in 2010, and its ban on gun sales in 2014.

      Didn’t Chicago have strict gun laws long before the feds struck them down? Did Chicago see a significant increase in gun assaults/murders after invalidation?*

      *Of course, empirical results shouldn’t dictate our rights.

    4. “It’s complicated, but a comparison with New York is a good place to start. Both cities began the 1990s with historically high homicide rates; both have diverse populations, including large numbers of blacks, Hispanics and whites, and a wide range of economic fortune as well.”

      List of similarities seems rather weak. Large numbers of whites?

  15. Regulation killed biotech crop innovation. In the 1980s, at the dawn of the crop biotechnology era, scores of startups eagerly applied new bioengineering techniques to modify and enhance crop varieties. They have all vanished.

    And yet the “need to regulate” will still be the default assumption. No one, save libertarians and maybe some law and economics types, wants to study the effect that government diktat has on private action. Nope; when something bad happens, blame “market failure” or “externalities.” It’s like how the left likes to call companies with large market capitalization “monopolies.” Not only do they fail to explain why these companies are monopolies and why that’s bad, they also assume that “regulation” will “fix” this “problem.”

    It’s time the burden of proof shifted to those calling for state intervention, where it always should have been.

  16. I declare this thread over.

    1. It’s not over until anonbot shows up an posts a link.

  17. Biotech startups (throughout several fields and multiple bubbles) failed because most of the ideas were based on hype and vastly simplistic ideas about biology that were nowhere near correct enough or useful enough to make a real product that competes with what experts have come up with using older technologies.

    Govt. regulation is shit that stifles everything too of course.

    1. I was going to say something about this but I didn’t feel I had the evidence to back it. But I do remember a kind of ‘biotech craze’ back in the 90s where any crackpot with a TED Talks head mic started a biotech firm.

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