Following the success of a recent project to create glowing plants using genetic engineering (a project that raised raised $484,013), popular crowd-funding site Kickstarter modified their guidelines for project creators, effectively banning projects from offering GMOs as a reward.
The Verge reports that the new prohibition is effective July 31, which means any future projects like the glowing plants one, will not be allowed.
When queried about the change, Kickstarter responded to The Verge by saying “we aim to be as open as possible while protecting the health and creative spirit of Kickstarter for the long term.” Not much of an explanation, considering other types of projects that are banned on the platform include things like hate crime and tobacco.
Perhaps Kickstarter is just responding to what their community wants and doesn’t think they need to back that up with an explanation. The reality is, although the Glowing Plant project raised almost half a million dollars, it also sparked a lot of debate. The project itself is obviously legal in the U.S. The scientists behind the project contacted the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at the US Department of Agriculture, which regulates genetically modified plants if plant pathogens are involved in the work. According to Nature.com, the agency’s main concern was whether DNA from the pathogen Agrobacterium would be used to insert foreign genes, as GM plant efforts often do. However, with regards to synthetic biologics, if they do not pose a plant risk, APHIS does not regulate it. To overcome concerns that seeds could potentially grow in the wild and spread, the team is engineering the plants to need a specific supplement to survive and will conduct studies to ensure there are no legal, ethical or environmental issues before shipping the seeds.
Does this mean the project is guaranteed to be safe? Probably not.
Looks like that’s good enough reason for Kickstarter to avoid taking such a risk going forward. As David Holmes from PandoDaily observes, “Kickstarter is merely reacting to public outcry by banning GMOs, because fifty-seven percent of Americans say they’d be less likely to buy foods labeled as genetically modified. And because it’s such a hot-button issue, it’s not hard to sympathize with Kickstarter for wanting to wash their hands of it completely.”
We can’t disagree with that reasoning! PandoDaily has also teamed up with Explainer Music for an entertaining little video that explains risks of genetically modified food. Watch it below, and decide for yourself if Kickstarter did the right thing!