Until very recently if you wanted to create, say, a drought-resistant corn plant, your options were extremely limited. You could opt for selective breeding, try bombarding seeds with radiation in the hope of inducing a favourable change, or else opt to insert a snippet of DNA from another organism entirely.
But these approaches were long-winded, imprecise or expensive – and sometimes all three at the same time. Enter CRISPR. Precise and inexpensive to produce, this small molecule can be programmed to edit the DNA of organisms right down to specific genes.
The development of cheap, relatively easy gene-editing has opened up a smorgasbord of new scientific possibilities. In the US, CRISPR-edited long-life mushrooms have already been approved by authorities while elsewhere researchers are toying with the idea creating spicy tomatoes and peach-flavoured strawberries. Read more