Agritech companies are increasingly embracing gene editing techniques, especially CRISPR, to not only fight fungal diseases, but also to ensure the production of safe crops with higher yields, as the United Nations. estimates that the world population will reach 9.8 billion by 2050.

Advocates are emphasizing the difference between gene editing, which uses existing genes as in the plant, and gene modification, in which foreign genes are transferred between crop species. Generally, genetically modified products can take up to 13 years to be brought to market and the process can cost up to $130 million; in contrast, genetically edited products take 5 years to be commercialized and cost up to $10 million.

A major hurdle in the popularization of gene edited products is consumer attitudes, with venture capital investors stating that “social license” is required from the public for gene edited crop companies to operate. Additionally, last July, the European Court of Justice ruled that gene edited crops are subject to the same requirements as genetically modified products, further increasing public skepticism of the trustworthiness of gene edited products. However, in the US, the USDA has so far indicated that gene editing is to be regulated in the same way as traditional breeding techniques, as long as there are little to no differences in outcomes.

Applications such as tomatoes with longer lasting flavor and non-browning mushrooms are already close to commercialization in the US. Other projects include low-gluten wheat and non-allergenic peanuts.

Source: Financial Times

< | >