The gene-editing technology of CRISPR-Cas9 isn’t just for artificial cells or mouse embryos. Scientists are working to see how CRISPR can help improve agriculture in terms of food production, sustainability, and more.

CRISPR gene editing is basically a genetic toolbox or library and originated from the way bacteria stored genetic information about viruses to protect against future infections. These days, scientists don’t want to use CRISPR just in bacteria but also in fungi, plants, and other living organisms. Today, we’ll focus on the potential for this technology in agriculture.

Crop Resistance

There is continuing research in the realm of genetically modifying plants to be resistant to pests and plant viruses. Crops such as wheat and maize are used all around the world to feed the masses but they are also vulnerable to certain strains of bacteria and viruses.

Researchers are looking into how CRISPR can edit plant genes so that they can stand up against these bacterial strains, which could potentially result in less worldwide hunger.

Different labs around the globe are working on this with projects ranging from mildew-resistant wheat to crops that can withstand severe drought. Others are working on plants that can hold up against herbicides and insecticides while still being safe for human consumption. This would enable farmers to spray their crops and defend them against pests while still yielding a profitable harvest.

Efficient Photosynthesis

Other CRISPR-Cas9 studies are looking at ways to improve the process of photosynthesis in certain plants. This could lead to greater crop and plant growth in different areas around the world, which in turn might yield great benefits for the environment.

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It’s no secret that climate change is threatening human, animal, and plant life so it makes sense that researchers are looking into ways that CRISPR may improve environmental outcomes and waste management.

For instance, some plants get too much sun and experience structural damage while others have a built-in mechanism to protect them. That sunshade gene could be used in other plants to allow them to grow in hotter and sunnier climes.

Boosting Food Production

Yet another way CRISPR technology may help improve agricultural production is by genetically modifying plants and crops using CRISPR-Cas9 lentivirus vectors. Then end goal being to help them survive and flourish more rapidly and in different environments. If farmers were able to grow a larger variety of crops on their land, it could lead to better outcomes for everyone in the area. There would be more biodiversity, less widespread hunger, and a healthier economy.

Of course, changes such as these don’t happen overnight and scientists are still years away from trying any of these experiments in a real-world setting. For now, these studies are confined to the lab but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t promising. In the meantime, scientists will continue to look into plant biology so they can better understand how to effectively and safely edit plant genes.

Are CRISPR-Edited Crops GMOs?

All of these developments around CRISPR-Cas9 boosting food production and yielding more growth calls into question whether or not CRISPR-edited crops count as GMOs. Genetically modified organisms are a hot topic among agricultural circles and the term GMO is thrown around a lot in the media.

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Scientifically speaking, GMOs have been deemed safe for human consumption but some health-conscious people still opt to keep their distance. Would they have the same feelings about CRISPR-edited crops?

Perhaps, but CRISPR technology differs from the process of genetically modifying a fruit. GMOs are created as a result of making gene edits that wouldn’t occur in nature. On the other hand, CRISPR uses evolutionary genetic editing to rewrite a plant’s DNA.

Regardless of how you feel about it, CRISPR-edited plants are still years away but it’s something to consider for the future of agriculture.

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CRISPR gene editing is basically a genetic toolbox or library and originated from the way bacteria stored genetic...
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