The plight of the honeybees has become a worldwide phenomenon, with Europe stepping up to the plate and widely banning GMOs as well as neonicotinoids, poison-treated seeds that have been linked to colony collapse disorder and wide-scale bee deaths.
But here in the United States, a different landscape has taken shape: one that continues to place chemial-intensive agriculture and gene modification techniques (including genetic engineering and now “gene editing,” both have been dubbed as GMOs) above long-term focused sustainable farming practices.
While the downsides of genetic engineering have become more known in recent years, gene editing is the newest “modifcation” to this risky and unnatural paradigm (learn more about genome editing of foods including the new “non-browning” apples and other creations by clicking here).
Now, scientists are utilizing this “new type of GMO” to create versions of edible plants that may be able to bypass the pollination process altogether.
New GMOs Bypass Need for Bees Entirely
As mentioned in this recent article from the website New Scientist, scientists are experimenting with new varieties of seedless gene edited fruits that will not require pollination from bees.
Currently, some varieties of seedless fruits grown using traditional breeding methods like tomatoes, pineapples and cucumbers can reproduce without pollination.
But the new lab created, gene-edited (GMO) varieties in development could allow for a wider range of seedless fruits to be produced in novel ways (that currently lack independent long-term safety testing as is the case with genetically engineered foods).
Tokushima University scientist Keishi Osakabe of Japan and his colleagues have reportedly used gene editing to deliberately induce a mutation into tomatoes that makes them seedless, the aforementioned article said.
The mutation allows for an increase in the hormone auxin, which stimulates the development of fruit even though no seeds have begun to form.
Whether we ever see such fruits on supermarket shelves, however, may depend on how regulators decide to treat gene-edited crops.
“We haven’t tasted them yet, but in theory they should taste the same,” Osakabe said of the team’s new creation.
Proponents of the new genetic modification technique, dubbed CRISPR, say that this method is more precise than genetic engineering and far faster than traditional breeding in a field.
Critics caution about the lack of long-term and independent safety testing, however, and take issue with the complete and utter lack of labeling which would allow customers to decide for themselves whether to buy the crops or not.
Recently, gene edited apples and potatoes were scheduled to hit store shelves with various gene alterations performed in a laboratory setting.
The question going forward is what type of regulation will be required for such gene-edited foods, which can be developed by independent scientists rather easily compared to traditional GMOs — opening the door for a silent takeover and genetic modification of our food supply if left unchecked.
Already Germany (where the cultivation of traditional GMOs has been banned) has said they will pursue strict regulations for such food creations.
Will America follow suit or give a free pass to genome editing as they have with Monsanto’s traditional GMOs? That remains to be seen, although it seems likely.
But with so many scientists tinkering and “playing God” with our food (and no labels for that matter), is a gene-edited future for our food really the best idea?
You can also watch a video below: