CRISPR biofortified foods

Nutritional improvement of crops is one of the fields set to gain from the advent of genome editing. Let’s take vitamin D3. People suffering from its deficiency in the world number about one billion. Plants do not contain it naturally, but some of them (solanaceae) are able to produce its precursor (cholesterol) within a biosynthetic pathway that leads to the synthesis of certain secondary metabolites (glycoalkaloids). Luckily, they can be induced to accumulate provitamin D3 by switching off the gene responsible for this reaction.

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Genome editing for smallholder farmers

A few months ago Nature Genetics published an article on “Genome-edited crops for improved food security of smallholder farmers”. It lists the applications being studied at the CGIAR consortium of agricultural research centers: “climate resilience in rice; disease resistance in banana, maize, potato, rice, wheat and yam; and nutrition improvement and consumer and environmental safety traits in cassava”. Additional traits include “brown streak virus resistance and haploid induction in cassava; nutritional quality and digestibility in bean; Striga resistance in sorghum; low phytate and high provitamin A in maize; reduced acrylamide, phytate and polyphenol oxidase in wheat; reduced aflatoxin in groundnut; delayed flour rancidity in pearl millet; reduced glycaemic index and apomixis in rice; and heat tolerance and apomixis in potato”. We emailed the CIMMYT’s scientist who leads the Genetic Resources work and is the first author of the NatGen article for an updated comment about the CGIAR’s vision of genome editing in agriculture. Kevin V. Pixley answers our questions below

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Wheat science and the climate crisis

How long will we have to wait for the first wheat varieties genetically edited to resist drought? We asked geneticists gathered in Bologna to discuss the future of pasta.  

The climate crisis threatens the grain that feeds the world. If you think this is an exaggeration, think again. Wheat scientists expect a 6-7% decline in yield for every degree increase in temperature. This a decrease we cannot take lightly, knowing that wheat is the most widely grown cereal in the world and provides two and a half billion people with 20 percent of their carbohydrates and protein.

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New genomic techniques: EU consultation results

On April 29, the European Commission launched an online public consultation on whether the EU regulatory framework should be reformed to keep pace with scientific and technological advances. The results, released on the consultation website, show a clear majority in favor of rethinking the current rules, which were approved when New Genomic Techniques (NGTs) such as targeted mutagenesis (i.e., CRISPR) did not yet exist. Here are the highlights:

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CRISPR crops & Italy elections

Nature Italy is a digital magazine published by Springer Nature, focused on scientific research and science policies in Italy. On 25 September the country goes to the polls, so Marta Paterlini, Fabio Turone and Nicola Nosengo asked some of the major parties about their proposals on climate, science, and health. Unfortunately the right wing Fratelli d’Italia, leading in opinion polls, and its ally, Forza Italia, didn’t respond. Below are the other parties answers about new genomic techniques in agriculture (in Italy they are sometimes called “assisted-evolution technologies”). In brief M5S and UP are quite elusive, while the others are in favor with different nuances.

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Crispy salads are here!

Berkeley professor Patrick Hsu on twitter: “Delighted to try out the world’s first CRISPR-edited salad”

I must say that I’m a bit envious and eager to taste this kind of Brassica juncea with the “mustard bomb” mechanism prevented by knocking-out multiple copies of the gene responsible for the bitter taste.

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New Genomic Techniques in EU – have your say

Participatory democracy means citizens have a say in the process of policymaking. Here is your chance to contribute to creating an updated, science-based European legal framework for edited plants. You will be asked questions such as: “Should the potential contribution to sustainability of the modified trait of a product be taken into account in new legislation on plants produced by targeted mutagenesis or cisgenesis?”

Wonder wheat, when precision meets serendipity

The powdery mildew-resistant wheat developed earelier this year by a Chinese team led by Caixia Gao is a fruit of human ingenuity and genome-editing precision. However it also deserves a mention in future essays on accidental discoveries such as penicillin.

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