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Governance of Targeted GMOs

Selecting for specific genetic characteristics in plants is as old as agriculture. When the Green Revolution began in the 1940 through 1970s, led by the University of Minnesota's Norman Borlaug, we began to think about how we could make plants that would give increased yield and not be devastated by bugs or fungi. Many companies expanded such efforts with GMO technology and now there are many GMOs crops growing in fields around the world and have been for the past 15 years. But like with any technology, we refine our processes, try to improve it, change it, adapt it. Such efforts can lead to great advances but they can also lead to mistakes and failures.

While failure in research is to be expected, there has been public concern about untended influences of GMOs and risks that some companies have taken. For example, the public was concerned that unlabeled food could harm individuals with allergies or that seeds with "terminator technology," which cannot reproduce, would spread to other plants. So the Europeans and the U.S. have made laws and regulations (EU laws are much stricter). Now we have the emergence of targeted genetic modification (TagMo). TagMo is poised to revolutionize plant genetic engineering by its potential to: increase the speed and ease of genetic modification, facilitate the introduction of novel traits in previously unmodified plant species, and fall outside existing regulatory authority. Basically we have new technology and we are not completely sure if it is regulated or how exactly to regulate it. So folks at CSTPP are researching just that question. If you want to hear more join us on Tuesday at 12:00 in the Humphrey School's Stassen Room for a discussion. Otherwise, stay tuned for papers that draw upon insights from the fields of anticipatory governance and examine the conflicting meanings that emerge when experts describe TagMo, its potential futures, and the preferred governance response.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
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