Japan Panel Approves First Genome - Edited Food

Japan panel approves first genome-edited food

An expert panel at Japan's health ministry has given a go-ahead to sales of the country's first genome-edited food.

The panel on Friday approved an application for the sale of a tomato whose genome has been edited to make it produce more of an amino acid called GABA. The substance is said to help lower blood pressure.

The tomato was jointly developed by the University of Tsukuba and a biotech firm.

The panel said the tomato does not contain any genes that differ from those of natural varieties. It also said genome-editing has not increased the volume of allergens or toxic substances.

A regulation introduced last year allows the sale of genome-edited food after a filing to the government, if the expert panel determines that the food does not require any safety screening.

In contrast, genetically modified food that contain genes of other living organisms must pass the Food Safety Commission's screening to gain approval for sale.

The biotech firm filed the application on Friday. It says it plans to start distributing free seedlings for kitchen gardens in the first half of next year, with the aim of selling tomatoes as early as 2022.

The company says genome-edited products will be labeled as such.