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India exempts certain gene-edited crops from biosafety assessment

India’s government has issued an order exempting certain gene-edited plants from stringent biosafety regulations. The move exempts SDN1 and SDN2 plants from the regulations currently imposed on the commercialization of genetically modified transgenic crops. Regulators would instead rely on the Institutional Biosafety Committee to certify that the gene-edited crop is devoid of any foreign DNA.

SDN1 and SDN2 processes do not involve alien genetic material and the result is indistinguishable from conventionally bred crop varieties. By taking this action, India joins a growing list of countries that have already approved progressive regulations for gene-edited crops.

A group of scientists recently wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing their concern that agricultural progress was being delayed. They categorically stated that the variants developed through SDN1 and SDN2 techniques do not have any alien DNA and can be treated as other conventionally-bred hybrids. Their appeal seems to have worked as the Indian government soon moved to exempt those gene-edited products from its GMO regulatory process.

India’s government has already recognized the power of editing techniques to study and manipulate a plant’s genome. It has been promoting research and innovation in the area of genome engineering technologies and their applications in agriculture, bioenergy, environmental research, and human health.

Both public and private sector organizations in India have been engaged in the research and development of gene-edited crops even in the absence of a regulatory policy that would support their release for commercial use.

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