Gene editing technology has become increasingly widespread over the past 8 years and is being applied to a wide range of plants, algae, animals and microbes. Crop and livestock genome editing (to improve traits such as disease resistance, yield and nutritional content) has clear relevance to both food and feed. However, the potential uses and impacts of genome editing over the next 3–6 years are much wider. For example, genome editing may enhance the use and benefits (socio-economic and environmental) of new foods such as insects and algae, and genome editing of microbes and plants may provide new routes for food supplements and help deliver changes in food manufacture to reduce fats, sugar and salt. The UK Government recently completed a consultation about the regulation of genetic technologies with a view to changing the legislative framework on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) so that it no longer applied to organisms produced by gene editing (GE) and other genetic technologies if they could have been developed using traditional breeding methods.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision of 2018 (C-528/16) that organisms altered with genome editing are GMOs within the meaning of the Directive 2001/18/EC has led the EU to review its position with the intention of adopting a similar approach in line with advice from its science advisory bodies that GE organisms should not be classed as GMOs. There is considerable variation in the evolving regulation of gene editing globally, which is also an area of rapid technological development.

This POSTnote will update previous gene editing POSTnotes, identifying emerging trends with respect to food, feed and food supplements to provide an overview of new technologies and products in development.

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