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Smallholder Farmers to Gain from Gene Editing Technology
Posted by: Prof. Dr. M. Raupp (IP Logged)
Date: November 09, 2017 08:19AM

Gene editing technology, such as the use of CRISPR-Cas9 could revolutionize
the development of high-yielding, drought-, disease- and pest-resistant, and
quality plant seeds; with lesser time of development compared to current
breeding methods. These were highlighted by a panel of expert scientists at
the 2017 Borlaug Dialogue conference held on October 18-20, 2017 in Des
Moines, Iowa.

According to Feng Zhang, the originator of the technology who is a core
member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, CRISPR-Cas9 is
almost as simple as editing a Microsoft Word document on a computer. To edit
genes the Cas9 protein is programmed to create an RNA search string, which
can search and edit paired DNA to change a genome to get desired results in
plants, Zheng explained. "There's a lot of exciting opportunity to apply
this technology in both human health and in agriculture," he said.

Scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
also aim to use the breakthrough technology to help smallholder farmers in
the developing world address food security, nutrition shortcomings and
economic threats to their livelihoods caused by climate change, pests and
disease. They acknowledge the potential of the technology to reduce the use
of pesticides, and to boost nutrition through biofortification of crops.

"We want sustainable agriculture that provides food and nutrition security
for all, while enabling biodiversity conservation," said Kevin Pixley, who
leads the Seeds of Discovery project and the Genetic Resources Program at
CIMMYT. "CRISPR-Cas9 is an affordable technology that can help us close the
technology gap between the resource rich and resource poor farmers of the
world." Gene-edited varieties could also lessen the risk of investing in
fertilizers, grain storage or other technologies, thereby contributing to
"double benefits" for smallholder farmers, Pixley stressed.


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