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July 23rd, 2019 / European Scientist

new comprehensive review paper published last week on 15 July in Nature plants explores how scientists can use CRISPR to enhance traditional plant breeding techniques with the goal of ensuring global food security (1). Gene-editing technologies like CRISPR will be particularly important “in the context of global climate change as well as in the face of current agricultural, environmental and ecological challenges”, the authors write.

Zhang and colleagues highlight the currently untapped potential of CRISPR technology for plant science, suggesting that CRISPR has could significantly accelerate plant breeding and germplasm development (the genetic material, seeds, and tissues used to cultivate crops) in the future. But this goes beyond traditional gene editing.

The new comprehensive review emphasises the potential benefits — beyond basic gene editing — that CRISPR can offer in plant breeding. The technology has been used in many different ways in animals and humans that could also be applied to important food crops such as rice, wheat, and corn or maize. According to the authors, similar studies in crops are lagging. Yet CRISPR is a highly versatile system, says Dr Yiping Qui, senior author and a plant biologist at the University of Maryland. Read more …