Genome editing on debate? CRAG organises a series of meetings to discuss this new technologyCRAG fosters dialogue on plant gene editing with different sectors of society
In July 2022, the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) obtained a grant from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT)-Ministry of Science and Innovation for the promotion of scientific, technological and innovation culture. The project funded by the FECYT has aimed to increase the scientific culture of society in relation to plant science, genomics, agriculture and food, as well as to disseminate the results of CRAG's research and innovation. The project has consisted of different actions, including the drafting and dissemination of news on CRAG's scientific results, the organisation of the school workshops Mutant Plants and Plants Defence, the photographic exhibition Who Researches Plants? and the creation of informative material on gene editing.
One of the novelties of this project has been the organisation of meetings with different sectors of society (the agri-food sector, the media and the general public) to debate and disseminate the most recent advances in plant gene editing, a technique that allows the DNA of plants to be modified with great precision and efficiency. The main objective of these meetings was to incorporate the views of different social actors, such as farmers, consumers, companies, regulators and the media, on the benefits and risks of this technology, as well as to contribute to the public debate on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Precisely, on 5 July 2023, because of the scientific controversy generated by gene editing applied to crops, the European Commission presented a new proposal to apply a differentiated legislation between transgenic plants and gene-edited plants.
A total of 4 meetings were held with the 3 audiences mentioned above, that is, companies in the agri-food sector, the media and the general public. In November, the CRAG-Companies: Biotechnology at the service of agriculture conference was held, where short talks were given by both researchers and companies and bilateral meetings were offered to promote future collaborations. In April, the meeting What will we eat tomorrow? Beyond GMOs, attended by journalists from the general media, the main theme of which was the treatment of gene editing as a newsworthy event following a possible change in European legislation and its potential application to help solve the current challenges of population growth or the climate crisis. The third meeting, with the general public, was the CRAG opens up to the public: come and discuss genetically modified food in May. This event provided a space for dialogue open to the public to gather and resolve doubts about genetically modified foods. Finally, the last meeting took place in June, again with professionals from the sector, at the Technical Conference: What do we know about gene editing in agriculture? co-organised with the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda (DACC) of the Generalitat de Catalunya, and which welcomed a more specific audience from the primary sector and was attended by the Head of Area and Secretary of the Interministerial Council on GMOs of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of the Spanish Government, Judith Martín, which was very interesting and allowed the discussion of regulatory issues and agricultural policies through a round table with other actors involved (farmers, producers and researchers).
The results of all these meetings have been disseminated through our website and social networks and have generated a great impact, thus positioning CRAG as a national and international reference centre in plant genomics, both in terms of basic research and knowledge transfer to the social sectors involved.
With the collaboration of