Foods edited by genes will hit store shelves

Food products using gene-editing technology could hit store shelves across the country this year amid lingering consumer concerns after a notification system for these foods began in October.

The technology dramatically accelerates the improvement of plants and animals, a process that was conventionally driven through breeding.

Critics are concerned that some gene-edited food products need not be tracked for safety. State notifications and product label indications are also voluntary.

The technology allows a specific gene in DNA to be precisely cut to disrupt its functions and a gene from a different organism to be inserted.

So far, tomatoes are much richer in nutritional content and higher yielding rice crops have been developed through technology.

Masato Kinoshita, an assistant professor at Kyoto University, has developed a breed of thicker goldfish by editing genes.

“Costs will fall if production increases without extra care. Consumers will benefit from falling prices, ”said Kinoshita.

The health ministry says it is mandatory to place genetically modified foods through safety checks under the food sanitation law.

But foods edited by genes that use the technique to extract genes are treated as an exception in the notification system.

Developers must notify these food products to the government. But this is not mandatory.

This particular type of gene editing is believed to "pose the same degree of risk as conventional breeding," said one ministry official.

In the meantime, foods into which any gene has been introduced must pass safety tests.

The Consumer Affairs Agency has decided not to make it mandatory to label foods edited by genes using the gene extraction technique. He came to the conclusion why it is impossible to identify products using the technique scientifically.

In addition, the agency finds it difficult to find foreign companies that produce or sell products using the technique.

But the agency is asking companies to voluntarily indicate any use of this technique on product labels in response to consumer requests.

Hiroko Yoshimori, leader of the civic group Non GM Seed Forum, is critical in the governmental treatment of gene-edited foods.

“Unexpected things can happen. A wrong gene could be cut by mistake, ”said Yoshimori. "I feel the system was launched hurriedly without sufficient consideration."

Source: Jiji Press

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