CRISPR and our food supply: What’s next in feeding the world?

The latest adventure in food enhancement is CRISPR (e.g., clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/Cas9) gene-editing technology. It potentially has many major implications for enhanced global agriculture and much needed improvements in food security. CRISPR and gene editing tools simultaneously represents an extensive legal and regulatory challenge and additionally, a monumental scientific opportunity for the global food industry. With the development of genome editing technologies, the possibility of directly targeting and subsequently modifying genomic sequences in plants is intriguing. Genome editing can extend our ability to develop an extraordinary potential in applied biotechnology and its effects on increased world food production.

An important concept to the understanding of CRISPR/Cas came from scientific observations that the prokaryote repeat cluster (a family of DNA sequences found in the genomes of prokaryotic organisms such as bacteria and archaea) was incorporated into a set of homologous genes (having the same relation/structure or relative position) that make up CRISPR-associated systems or Cas genes.

The Cas proteins show nuclease and helicase motifs (a linkage that is found in a great many other DNA processing enzymes) which suggests an important role of the CRISPR loci. The development of programmable nucleases (e.g., clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)–Cas-associated nucleases, zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs), and transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs)) has expedited the ability to improve the field of gene editing and subsequently potentially improve food production. CRISPR/Cas gene editing technology can potentially increase plant/crop yields and quality, plant drought resistance, herbicide and insecticide resistance, improved food safety and security, enhance the removal of antibiotic resistance (AMR), improve product shelf life and it can potentially accelerate the process of plant domestication. 

Read more at Michigan State University (Scott Haskell)

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