Over the past year or so, researchers around the world have begun using a new gene-editing technique that has the potential to help stop world hunger, end the use of pesticides and improve our health.
The technique, known as CRISPR-Cas9, allows scientists to change, delete or replace DNA more easily than ever before. Theoretically, this could allow farmers to grow crops that are bigger, tougher and more nutritious. Hypoallergenic peanuts? Wheat that is invulnerable to mildew? Drought-resistant corn or healthier tomatoes? CRISPR could make all these things not only possible, but quick and cheap to produce.
As Newsweek pointed out in a feature story published earlier this year, the technology could be an invaluable tool in fighting world hunger, potentially making crops less susceptible to climate change and less reliant on chemicals like pesticides. CRISPR could also be used to grow certain crops in places where local conditions are currently inhospitable. And because CRISP could allow scientists to develop strains of fruits and vegetables with amplified health benefits, malnourished populations around the world may someday have access to more vitamin-rich foods.
Proponents of applying CRISPR to food production say precision sets the technology apart from how foods have been genetically modified in the past.
"What excites me about this is you can make a specific change and you’re left with just this change," Joyce Van Eck, who runs a lab at Cornell University that focuses on "biotechnological" approaches to crop improvement, told The Huffington Post. "When you do other types of mutagenesis, you don't know what else you’re hitting. It's so specific. It has almost drone-like precision."
Van Eck began looking into how she might employ CRISPR soon after reading the 2013 paper that showed how the technology edits genes in human and mouse cells. Like most scientists who have encountered the technology, she was was immediately intrigued by the possibilities. Last September, she published a study showing that CRISPR can be used to edit tomatoes with relative ease and precision. Now, she’s focused on increasing how many tomatoes can be grown at a time.
Read the entire article via Huffington Post online: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/crispr-gene-editing-food-gmos_566741a2e4b009377b22b09e