Does a point mutation look different when it is made by one process or another? No! One cannot tell from the mutation itself whether it was spontaneous or triggered by genome editing, and additional information on the history of the genetic material is needed as a precondition to evaluate from which breeding process it originates. Spontaneous or edited, point mutations are the same for all intents and purposes.
EPSO fully agrees that known gene edits including single nucleotide changes can be detected by PCR. EPSO declared this in its input to the present EC study on NGTs (New Genomic Techniques) and connected statements. The Greenpeace-funded work by the Chhalliyil et al (2020) publication merely confirms this well-established fact.
However, the published method has two main limitations: It does not present a means to establish that genome editing is the cause of the detected mutation, since it just displays a sequence modification without identification of the modification process. This has been seen from the beginning as the major challenge, since edited plants produced in countries with more open regulation are not declared as such. In addition, the method is not applicable to unknown gene modifications, since edited plants, contrary to classical GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), do not share common elements, and a method detecting a specific sequence variation cannot detect different variations in other plants and sequences. The detection of a single nucleotide change does not provide any proof by itself that this change was provoked by genome editing rather than natural mutation.
Click here to read: Full EPSO statement 09.09.202
- Alan Schulman, LUKE, FI & EPSO President
- Peter Rogowsky, INRAE, FR & EPSO AgT WG chair
- Karin Metzlaff, EPSO, BE