Skip to Content
Biotechnology

CRISPR plants won’t be regulated

In a big win for the biotech industry, the US Department of Agriculture says once and for all it won’t regulate plants whose genomes have been altered using gene-editing technology.

Why it’s a field day: The decision means that we could see a boom in newfangled plants from firms like Monsanto, universities, and startups like Calyxt, whose oil-altered soybeans featured in our cover story late last year.

Here’s the logic: The USDA says gene editing is just a (much) faster form of breeding. So long as a genetic alteration could have been bred into a plant, it won’t be regulated. That includes changes that create immunity to disease or natural resistance to crop chemicals, as well as edits to make seeds bigger and heavier. It doesn’t include transgenic plants (those with a gene from a distant species)—those will still be regulated. 

Problems ahead: Trade in major crops is a global affair. Unless Europe and China agree with the US, exports of CRISPR plants could yet be blocked.

Crop Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly said the USDA had intended to regulate gene-edited plants more aggressively under an Obama-era proposed rule. Not so, says Richard Coker, a USDA spokesman. 

Deep Dive

Biotechnology

How scientists want to make you young again

Research labs are pursuing technology to “reprogram” aging bodies back to youth.

Inside the billion-dollar meeting for the mega-rich who want to live forever

Hope, hype, and self-experimentation collided at an exclusive conference for ultra-rich investors who want to extend their lives past 100. I went along for the ride.

Human brain cells transplanted into baby rats’ brains grow and form connections

When lab-grown clumps of human neurons are transplanted into newborn rats, they grow with the animals. The research raises some tricky ethical questions.

The debate over whether aging is a disease rages on

In its latest catalogue of health conditions, the World Health Organization almost equated old age with disease. Then it backed off.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.