A few weeks ago, Stefan Jansson, a Swedish plant biologist, sat down to a plate of pasta with cabbage harvested from his garden. This cabbage was like none any human had eaten before; its DNA had been edited via a much-hyped new gene-editing technique called CRISPR. Jansson’s meal was the first time anyone anywhere had professed to eating CRISPR-modified food—an entirely new category of GMOs.

    But far from being some bizarre “frankenfood,” the cabbage looked almost exactly the same as unedited cabbage. Scientists had deleted only a single gene, which made it grow a little slower.

    What might be confusing though is that Jansson’s cabbage, Brassica oleracea, did not look like or taste like cabbage—and it had not looked liked or tasted like cabbage even before scientists took CRISPR to its DNA. “It tastes like broccoli,” says Jansson, “and the leaves look like broccoli’s.” And that’s because humans have been breeding the species B. oleracea for centuries, and this single species now comprises dozens of varieties more commonly known as kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, collard greens, savoy cabbage, etc. They all descend from wild cabbage, and they technically all belong to one species. The exact variety Jansson grew is not farmed, so he called it “cabbage” out of convenience.


    In Sweden, Jansson is no stranger to unease over genetic engineering. His colleagues recently returned from a conference where activists flung cow dung and eggs at scientists. The CRISPR-edited cabbage he grew he actually got from researchers outside Sweden, who did not want their names or even their country revealed, fearing backlash from environmental activists.

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    Too much of it can make humans sick, and his cabbage was, remember, not originally bred for cultivation.

    His stomach didn’t feel great after, Jansson confessed— “as if I had spicy food at an Indian restaurant.” But CRISPR, he suggested, could help with that.

I'm not seeing the point. He removed a gene, calling that process CRISPR instead of the dreaded GMO. It sounds genetically modified. It's modifying a gene. It sounds like he's getting around the FDA classification at the moment because he's not adding any DNA?

The environmentalists are already in a rage about it. Scientists aren't backing it. He got sick over his own creation.

The commercial prospects for this don't look good.

posted by thenewgreen: 852 days ago