Russia has declared support to gene-editing technology by launching a US$1.7
billion federal research program that will develop 10 new varieties of
gene-edited crops and animals by 2020 and another set of 20 gene-edited
varieties by 2027.
Alexey Kochetov, director of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of
Sciences (RAS) Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, lauded
this new effort stressing that the country has been "chronically
underfinanced" for decades. The research program also suggests that
gene-edited products will be exempted from a law passed in 2016 that bans
planting of genetically modified crops in Russia, except for research use.
Molecular geneticist Konstantin Severinov, who helped develop the research
program, emphasized the importance of CRISPR technology in making Russia
less dependent on imported crops. "Despite considering itself a bread
basket, Russia is highly dependent on imports when it comes to elite crop
varieties, so [the government decided] something needs to be done. . .
Luckily, a few RAS members managed to make the case that CRISPR-Cas9 is a
good thing," says Severinov.