Somewhere in the Midwest, a restaurant is frying foods with oil made from gene-edited soybeans. That’s according to the company making the oil, which says it’s the first commercial use of a gene-edited food in the U.S.
Calyxt said it can’t reveal its first customer for competitive reasons, but CEO Jim Blome said the oil is “in use and being eaten.”
The Minnesota-based company is hoping the announcement will encourage the food industry’s interest in the oil, which it says has no trans fats and a longer shelf life than other soybean oils. Whether demand builds remains to be seen, but the oil’s transition into the food supply signals gene editing’s potential to alter foods without the controversy of conventional genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Among the other gene-edited crops being explored: mushrooms that don’t brown, wheat with more fiber, better-producing tomatoes, herbicide-tolerant canola and rice that doesn’t absorb soil pollution as it grows.
Unlike conventional GMOs, which are made by injecting DNA from other organisms, gene editing lets scientists alter traits by snipping out or adding specific genes in a lab. Startups including Calyxt say their crops do not qualify as GMOs because what they’re doing could theoretically be achieved with traditional crossbreeding.
So far, U.S. regulators have agreed and said several gene-edited crops in development do not require special oversight. It’s partly why companies see big potential for gene-edited crops.
But given the many ways gene editing can be used, Jaydee Hanson of the Center for Food Safety said regulators should consider the potential implications of each new crop. He cited the example of produce gene-edited to not brown.
“You’ve designed it to sit around longer. Are there problems with that?” he said.
Already, most corn and soy grown in the U.S. are herbicide-tolerant GMOs.
Calyxt says its oil does not qualify as a GMO. The oil is made from soybeans with two inactivated genes to produce more heart-healthy fats and no trans fats. The company says the oil also has a longer shelf life, which could reduce costs for food makers or result in longer-lasting products.