As gene-edited foods advance and move “closer to supermarket shelves,” agricultural and biotechnology groups are looking to avoid a dispute over public perception of the technology, according to the Wall Street Journal. Gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9, TALEN and zinc-finger nucleases are different from techniques that create genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which involve the insertion of genes from external species to create plants with new characteristics. In contrast, gene-editing technology allows researchers to alter the plant’s DNA; the industry reportedly describes the process as “an extension of plant breeding, the centuries-old practice of crossing plant strains to create improved offspring.”

Industry regulators, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have indicated that they will not regulate gene-edited plants as strictly as those engineered with external DNA. However, the Non-GMO Project has barred gene-edited plants and animals from bearing its verification label, and opponents reportedly refer to the new technique as “GMO 2.0.” Some organic food makers have decided not to use gene-edited crops in their products. In response, trade groups have circulated talking points for crop scientists and industry participants to use in public discussions of gene-editing biotechnologies, recommending they focus on the benefits of the products rather than the technology itself. Public relations experts are reportedly skeptical of the approach, saying arguments that technology is necessary to feed a growing global population do not resonate with U.S. consumers.

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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