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WUR launches podcast on CRISPR-Cas:

Building bridges between science and society

To what extent can and should you tinker with the genetic building blocks of crops? These and other questions are addressed in Wageningen University & Research's (WUR) new podcast 'CRISPR-Cas: building bridges between science and society'. In the podcast, Wageningen scientists share their insights on the opportunities - and risks - of the new revolutionary precision technique CRISPR-Cas in making changes to the DNA of agricultural crops. Led by podcast creator Monica Lam, the researchers elaborate on where the limits of applying this technique lie.

What is CRISPR-Cas?
CRISPR-Cas allows scientists to edit, repair, add, or delete specific genes. It is like cutting and pasting into a text file, but then in organisms. The technique offers opportunities in curing hereditary human diseases. At the same time, CRISPR-Cas can also be used as a plant breeding technique, helping to develop agricultural crops that are more resistant to disease. This could enable farmers to produce more food worldwide while drastically reducing the use of harmful crop protection products.

So why is CRISPR-Cas controversial?
The use of CRISPR-Cas and similar techniques to improve crops is already allowed in countries like the US, Argentina, and China, but Europe has strict rules. The European Commission wants to relax these rules, but there is also resistance. Opponents point out that there could be unintended side effects that have adverse effects on nature and the environment. The technology also raises ethical questions. How far can humans go in modifying organisms? Won't too much power be vested in big companies? Will we, as consumers, still have the choice to consume food that has not been genetically modified? And will seeds and cuttings remain affordable for farmers in developing countries if everything is patented?

Microbiologists, plant scientists, and social scientists from Wageningen University & Research discuss the opportunities and risks of CRISPR-Cas in the podcast 'CRISPR-Cas: building bridges between science and society.' By doing so, they aim to contribute to the social dialogue on this technique and enable listeners to delve further into the subject.

The podcast appears in a Dutch and an English version and can be listened to via Spotify and Apple Podcasts.


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