In recent years, however, scientists have turned to inventive new ways to protect crops. Genetic modification techniques developed over the last 30 years, for example, can arm plants with defenses against viral invasion, while leaving crop yields and food quality unaffected. Some of these modified plants are now in the food chain. More-recent gene editing techniques are refining this approach, allowing researchers to make precise changes in plants’ DNA to engineer a more resistant generation of crops. Several such varieties are now being tested in lab and field trials, while a handful await safety approval from national regulatory bodies.
“With climate change, there will be more new insects appearing, and those insects will be carrying new viruses and new strains,” says Jean-François Laliberté, a virologist at the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS) in Quebec, Canada. To secure crop production around the world, “we have to find those means of genome editing.” Read more