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December 19th, 2017 / Successful Farming, US

On the surface, a light switch and gene editing have as much in common as a linebacker does with a ballerina.

Dig a bit deeper, though. “In a very simple way, the main application of gene editing is like flipping a light switch on and off,” says Federico Tripodi, chief executive officer of Calyxt, a New Brighton, Minnesota, agricultural technology firm.

Gene editing is a group of technologies used to turn on or off or alter material at specific locations in a crop’s genome (an organism’s genetic material). Want to rid a crop of a disease? Flick off a switch. Want to unlock a yield-enhancing characteristic? Flick on a switch.

Scientists see this technology as transformational, akin to when genetically modified corn and soybeans hit the market in the 1990s. It doesn’t carry the baggage of genetically modified organism (GMO) technology, either.

“With GMOs, we introduce a foreign material into the plant,” says Adrian Percy, global head of research and development for Bayer Crop Science. “With gene editing, we make changes to the existing genome, rather than with foreign genetic material.”

Gene editing may be a more palatable technology for consumers. Read more