Sunday, August 25, 2019

CRISPR breathing new life into wheat and other crops—can it avoid GMO controversy?

| August 23, 2019

One need not look far to find reasons for wheat growers to be clamoring for drastic improvements to the crop that represents their livelihood. The 2017 US wheat harvest was the lowest in 15 years, according to the USDA. The reasons ran from low prices and wet spring weather to pests and diseases. Meanwhile, bacterial blight in rice caused by Xanthomonas oryzae is decimating crops in Asia and Africa.

Farmers look upon the the GMO technology that has improved corn, soybean and cotton crops and find themselves wishing for more. Some producers see hope for innovative gene-editing techniques to create hardier, more successful grains.

Ever since humans decided to settle down and raise their own food, they’ve been growing plants and selecting the ones that have the traits they want most. Plant breeding has since been accomplished through a range of techniques, including the basic plant-and-choose, directed mutagenesis, transferring germplasm from wild to domestic plants, and the transgenic combinations that have given us modern herbicide-resistant crops. But now, the new CRISPR  gene editing offers the potential to radically change the way we breed crops.

Short for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” these naturally occurring yet quirky sequences of DNA are used by bacteria to fight disease, and now are under scrutiny for their potential to create new traits in plants. But, like any new technology, there are a few shortcomings which may or may not block its way to commercial use—and not all of those are because of “anti” activism.......To Read More....

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