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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Three hopes for CRISPR

easter eggs

Off-target paper retraction: Nature Methods has retracted a controversial study questioning CRISPR precision, after its authors admitted they were probably wrong. This blog’s wish is that future studies on CRISPR flaws and virtues are as reliable as the genome-editing technique.

Deregulation statement: US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced that USDA will not regulate edited plants as long as they could have been created through conventional breeding. Let’s hope Europe will follow the example.

Gene therapy going “organic”: that’s the hope expressed by Merlin Crossley, when commenting his Nature Genetics paper on mutations beneficial to patients with β-thalassemia and sickle cell anemia. The word organic here means that fetal hemoglobin production can be boosted without inserting foreign DNA.