Genome Editing in Latin America: Regional Regulatory Overview

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Kuiken, Todd;
Kuzma, Jennifer
Jul 2021
The power and promise of genome editing, CRISPR specifically, was first realized with the discovery of CRISPR loci in the 1980s.3 Since that time, CRISPR-Cas systems have been further developed enabling genome editing in virtually all organisms across the tree of life.3 In the last few years, we have seen the development of a diverse set of CRISPR-based technologies that has revolutionized genome manipulation.4 Enabling a more diverse set of actors than has been seen with other emerging technologies to redefine research and development for biotechnology products encompassing food, agriculture, and medicine.4 Currently, the CRISPR community encompasses over 40,000 authors at 20,000 institutions that have documented their research in over 20,000 published and peer-reviewed studies.5 These CRISPR-based genome editing tools have promised tremendous opportunities in agriculture for the breeding of crops and livestock across the food supply chain. Potentially addressing issues associated with a growing global population, sustainability concerns, and possibly help address the effects of climate change.4 These promises however, come along-side concerns of environmental and socio-economic risks associated with CRISPR-based genome editing, and concerns that governance systems are not keeping pace with the technological development and are ill-equipped, or not well suited, to evaluate these risks.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) launched an initiative in 2020 to understand the complexities of these new tools, their potential impacts on the LAC region, and how IDB may best invest in its potential adoption and governance strategies. This first series of discussion documents: “Genome Editing in Latin America: Regulatory Overview,” and “CRISPR Patent and Licensing Policy” are part of this larger initiative to examine the regulatory and institutional frameworks surrounding gene editing via CRISPR-based technologies in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) regions. Focusing on Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, they set the stage for a deeper analysis of the issues they present which will be studied over the course of the next year through expert solicitations in the region, the development of a series of crop-specific case studies, and a final comprehensive regional analysis of the issues discovered.