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Why Gene Editing Will Help Fuel Better Seed Varieties

It makes changes to the plant in a different way than with GMOs.

If you’re looking for ways for your crops to better deal with pests and to have other positive market characteristics, gene editing – fueled by the discovery of CRISPR-Cas – will help you do it.

“People see this technology as transformational,” says Adrian Percy, global head of research and development for Bayer CropScience. “This type of technology enables small changes to be made in a plant’s natural genome.”

In crops, for example, the technology can be used to help them better cope with stressors like insects and diseases, says Percy, who spoke at this week’s AgVocacy Forum sponsored by Bayer CropScience prior to the Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas.

Gene editing also doesn’t carry the baggage of GMO technology.

“With GMOs, we are introducing a foreign material into the plant,” he says. “With gene editing, we are making changes to the existing genome, rather than with foreign genetic material.”
This can confer various phenotypic characteristics, such as increased disease resistance.

It’s possible this can spur negative effects, too. That’s why growout is still necessary. “You will clearly see that when you grow out the plant,” says Percy.

Gene editing will shave years off the plant breeding process, speeding hybrids and varieties to market, he says. There’s also likely to be less regulatory measures, since no foreign material is being inserted into the plant.

“There are benefits, not just to farmers, but to consumers,” Percy adds. “We were convinced (with GMOs) that it would help farmers in the field, but we did not reach out to consumers. We are explaining to the public that these are beneficial technologies.”


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