(NaturalNews) Monsanto has officially entered the "GMO 2.0" business, with the signing of the licensing agreement to use the technology known as CRISPR-Cas9. Due to a recent ruling by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the technology will allow Monsanto to create a new generation of GMO foods that are legally permitted to be labeled as "non-GMO."
CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is one of a broad family of new technologies known deceptively as "gene editing," in which scientists attempt to create targeted changes to genomes. The biotech industry presents gene editing as fundamentally different from first-generation genetic modification, which involved crudely splicing genes from one species into another. But critics note that for all its grand claims, gene editing is marred by all the same problems and dangers as the original GMO techniques.
Monsanto pushes to commercialize all life
Many of the patents for the processes used in CRISPR-Cas9 technology are held by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Under the new agreement, Monsanto gains a worldwide, nonexclusive right to use these technologies for agricultural applications.
A company press release highlights two exclusions to the license, placed to allay concerns from biotech critics. The license prohibits Monsanto from creating a gene drive, a controversial technique designed to deliberately spread genetically modified genes to non-modified organisms through sexual reproduction. It also bans Monsanto from producing sterile seeds, such as the "terminator" line Monsanto produced in the 1990s to force farmers to buy new seed stock every season.
Monsanto has publicly disavowed the terminator technology and says it will not commercialize it.
No other terms of the new agreement were made public, and the company mentioned no other limits on its ability to tamper with life's genetic code for its own profit.
GMOs no longer regulated in the USA
This summer, the USDA announced that it will not regulate crops produced by "gene editing" techniques as GMOs, meaning that companies will not have to go through a safety testing or regulatory approval process for these crops. This will save companies like Monsanto an estimated $35 million per modified trait just in regulatory testing and registration fees.