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Genome editing

What genome editing is and its potential applications.

Last updated: 7 January 2021

Genome editing, also referred to as gene editing, is the term given to a wide range of techniques used to alter the DNA of organisms, including plants and animals.

Genome editing works by using enzymes to cut DNA at specific points. This method can be used to add, delete or replace sections of DNA.

Changes introduced by genome editing can be identical to those occurring naturally or achieved through traditional breeding but can be made more quickly and precisely.

Genome editing can have many uses, which range from making small changes to DNA to adding new genes to improve traits in an organism.

Genome editing can have many applications. For example, it has the potential to improve the nutritional content of crops or reduce food waste by making them more resistant to disease.

Genome edited foods

There are no genome edited foods in the UK, although some are available elsewhere in the world.

We’re committed to the highest food safety standards and we always put the consumer first. Genome edited foods will only be permitted if they are judged:

  • not to present a risk to health
  • not to mislead consumers
  • not to have less nutritional value
FSA Explains

How genome editing differs from genetic modification

Genome editing comprises a spectrum of tools and techniques, which includes CRISPR technology, that can be used to alter an organism’s DNA in a precise and targeted way. Genome editing is used to modify specific points within the organism’s own DNA, leaving nothing behind but the altered DNA sequence. This differs from traditional genetic modification (GM), where new DNA is introduced into the genome of an organism in a non-targeted way.

The genetic changes that can be made by genome editing can range from editing a single point in the DNA to inserting large sections of DNA from other organisms. Small or single points edits can be made which are identical to those which could have been introduced by conventional breeding methods. However, larger edits such as introducing genes from other organisms, are not equivalent to conventional breeding methods and are more similar to traditional GM techniques.