Genome editing – also known as “gene editing” – is a hot topic in the agricultural media, and Canada is getting ready to deregulate gene-edited plants. As citizens it is hard to get scientific information about how these new genetic engineering techniques work and what they can do. Gene editing is often presented as being able to produce remarkable results, with great speed and precision. Yet the technologies’ limitations, and the ecological and health risks involved if gene-edited products are used in our fields and food system, are seldom discussed. How is gene editing the same as the genetic engineering technology currently used in commercial crops, and how is it different? Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher will provide clear scientific information to help citizens better understand the public discussion about the future of gene editing.
Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher is a biologist and molecular geneticist currently based in Oxford, UK. She has specialized in gene regulation and gene modification and has worked as a research scientist in university and hospital settings. Since 1995 she has worked on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), their risks and impacts on agriculture, environment and health, including more recently synthetic biology and the new genome editing techniques. She is involved in UN-led processes, in particular the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety where she represents the Federation of German Scientists, and has been appointed to international expert groups on the risk assessment of GMOs, as well as synthetic biology. She’s a founding member and board member of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility, co-director of the UK-based non-governmental organization EcoNexus, and works closely with civil society and small-scale farmers’ groups worldwide. Her recent publications include discussions of the risks and limitations of gene drives.