GMO’s, or genetically modified organisms, and CRISPR – which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, are used to tweak an organism’s DNA. But do you know the difference between them?

Keith Edmisten is a cotton and industrial hemp specialist at North Carolina State University. He says GMO is basically an umbrella term.

"For most of the public, I think their idea of what a GMO is, is when you’re moving a gene from one species to another species that’s not sexually compatible. But, scientists don’t really use the term GMO because it’s not very specific," he says. "We’ve genetically modified all the crops we grow. Even with traditional breeding, you’re genetically modifying crops."

CRISPR involves the process of gene editing and there are many ways to use it. One is to cut a chromosome in a specific spot, let it repair itself, and form a mutation that knocks out a detrimental gene. Edmisten says it’s cheaper and more precise than GMO technology.

"In the cases of using it for site-directed mutation, at least in the U.S so far, they’re nor requiring regulatory for that because it’s no different than using radiation to cause a mutation, or just looking for mutations within a species," he says. "It evens the playing field where it doesn’t require a lot of money, so small companies or universities are much more able to participate with this tool."

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