Gene editing is capturing the collective imagination of scientists.
Early research suggests that scientists may one day be able to treat incurable and fatal genetic diseases, modify human immune cells to kill certain types of cancer, and even stop the spread of malaria—a disease which kills nearly half a million people each year. The promise for agriculture is just as inspiring. Since 2010, over 11,000 gene editing studies have been published, laying the groundwork for projects in development and others yet to come.
Together with academics, industry leaders, and policy makers, we are continuing to discover agricultural innovations that solve problems for farmers, provide enough food for consumers, and preserve our planet’s natural resources.
Building a better blueprint
Gene editing has the potential to solve real challenges for farmers and the planet, like reducing the need for pesticides and the use of energy, land, and water. In agriculture, this process typically looks to improve a beneficial trait within an organism, or to remove an undesirable trait.
For years, “gene editing” was done through selective breeding in plants. But now we can make changes with more precision than ever before. Gene editing tools, like CRISPR, are already helping researchers to make improvements within plant DNA. These tools enable scientists to:
Support beneficial traits, such as drought tolerance or improved nutrition
Deactivate unfavorable traits, such as disease vulnerability
Break genetic linkages between positive and negative traits, creating plant varieties with the most desired characteristics
These tools have the potential to offer unmatched precision to farmers, allowing them to grow enough food while confidently reducing their use of natural resources. By giving plants a better chance at survival—particularly in regions that struggle with hunger and malnutrition—gene editing can give people a better chance at life.