Gene Editing: Emerging Applications for Food and Agriculture
Meridian organized one of the earliest multi-stakeholder dialogues on gene editing in the U.S., exploring how the technology could impact food and agriculture.
Gene editing creates precise alterations in an organism’s DNA. Advocates hail its potential to revolutionize the way we grow food, but others are deeply concerned about the implications of gene editing’s unknown health impacts, regulation, and international trade. Policies on gene editing in the U.S. food and agriculture sector were nascent when, in 2016, Meridian convened members of the food and agriculture community to discuss the risks and benefits of the practice.
Whereas past conversations on the topic were largely focused on research and development, we brought together a diverse range of food producers alongside policy-makers and researchers. They all had a stake in gene editing technology, but held different priorities and concerns. We explored these perspectives, guiding creative thinking about how gene editing could address the challenges facing food and agriculture. Topics ranged from public health to global development to supply chain innovation. In light of public trust concerns about the technology, we led strategic discussions about effective steps towards adequate legal and regulatory frameworks that can ensure the safe use of gene editing.
Given the limited research and policies that surrounded such a controversial issue, the dialogue could have ended in impasse. Instead, we successfully worked with participants to envision how gene editing could influence the future of American agriculture. We asked targeted questions and teased out sensitive topics—strengths that Meridian brought to the table from experience advancing public policy on similarly contentious, cutting-edge technologies. The meeting raised important questions, concerns, and opportunities that remain prescient as the understanding of gene editing in agriculture improves.