Gene-edited food is coming, but will shoppers buy?

  • The next generation of biotech food is headed for the grocery aisles, and first up may be salad dressings or granola bars made with soybean oil genetically tweaked to be good for your heart.
  • By early next year, the first foods from plants or animals that had their DNA "edited" are expected to begin selling.
Fred Gmitter, a geneticist at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center, holds an orange affected by citrus greening disease at a grove in Fort Meade, Fla., on Sept. 27, 2018.
 Federica Narancio | AP
Fred Gmitter, a geneticist at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center, holds an orange affected by citrus greening disease at a grove in Fort Meade, Fla., on Sept. 27, 2018.

The next generation of biotech food is headed for the grocery aisles, and first up may be salad dressings or granola bars made with soybean oil genetically tweaked to be good for your heart.

By early next year, the first foods from plants or animals that had their DNA "edited" are expected to begin selling. It's a different technology than today's controversial "genetically modified" foods, more like faster breeding that promises to boost nutrition, spur crop growth, and make farm animals hardier and fruits and vegetables last longer.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has declared gene editing one of the breakthroughs needed to improve food production so the world can feed billions more people amid a changing climate. Yet governments are wrestling with how to regulate this powerful new tool. And after years of confusion and rancor, will shoppers accept gene-edited foods or view them as GMOs in disguise?

"If the consumer sees the benefit, I think they'll embrace the products and worry less about the technology," said Dan Voytas, a University of Minnesota professor and chief science officer for Calyxt Inc., which edited soybeans to make the oil heart-healthy.