It is abundantly clear that the development of gene editing technologies, represents a potentially powerful force for good with regard to human and animal health and addressing the challenges we continue to face in a growing global population. This now includes the development of approaches to modify microalgal strains for potential improvements in productivity, robustness, harvestability, processability, nutritional composition, and application. The rapid emergence and ongoing developments in this area demand a timely review and revision of the current definitions and regulations around genetically modified organisms (GMOs), particularly within Europe. Current practices within the EU provide exemptions from the GMO directives for organisms, including crop plants and micro-organisms that are produced through chemical or UV/radiation mutagenesis. However, organisms generated through gene editing, including microalgae, where only genetic changes in native genes are made, remain currently under the GMO umbrella; they are, as such, excluded from practical and commercial opportunities in the EU. In this review, we will review the advances that are being made in the area of gene editing in microalgae and the impact of regulation on commercial advances in this area with consideration to the current regulatory framework as it relates to GMOs including GM microalgae in Europe.
- gene editing