Ag Innovation Showcase: Crispr gene editing will change the ag paradigm
The potential for Crispr-Cas9 to improve the quality and productivity of agriculture was central to the showcaseShow transcript
The latest applications for Crispr gene editing took centre stage at the latest Ag Innovation Showcase; but what is Crispr? How does it work, and what does it enable? Speakers from across the industry come together in this video to explain the potential of the technology. Registration is now open for the Ag Innovation Showcase 2017: visit www.agshowcase.com.
Avi Maidenberg: So I think some of the work being done around gene editing, which has kind of been a buzzword in our sector for a little while now, has gotten kind of a centre stage.
Sam Fiorello: I remember three years ago asking a panel of experts: what will change the paradigm of agriculture? And Crispr came up from all of them, saying: it’s a technology that will change everything.
Carlo Montemagno: I think the most exciting thing I heard about today was the gene editing strategies going forward, and the idea of being able to use Crispr to improve the quality and productivity of our food, while at the same time eliminating many of the issues and challenges normally associated with GMO products.
Sam Fiorello: It allows for very precise, very inexpensive marker assisted breeding and gene editing. I’m confident that we’ll see Crispr embedded in products around the world that will help us achieve mission impact.
The New Economy: The latest applications for Crispr gene editing did take centre stage at the latest Ag Innovation Showcase; but what does it enable?
Rachel Haurwitz: It’s the ability to go inside of cells and precisely change DNA sequences. These changes could be very small – maybe just one base of DNA, or could be large – insertion of a whole new gene at a particular site.
It’s based on a little protein called Cas9, which is basically a pair of molecular scissors. By designing a new RNA partner for it, you can target it to a particular site in the genome, and actually break the DNA at that site, cut the DNA.
Turns out cells don’t like to have their DNA broken, and so they quickly go about fixing it. And how it’s fixed is actually what causes the DNA to be edited.
The New Economy: The ability to specifically change DNA is transforming product development. It’s touching everything from basic research to new therapeutics. In agriculture, Crispr is being called precision breeding, or advanced breeding – in part, to try to distance the technology from GMOs.
Rachel Haurwitz: Typically when people talk about GMOs, they’re talking about taking a piece of DNA or a gene from one species, and moving it into an entirely different species.
In the case of Crispr gene editing, we’re typically talking about making small changes inside the organism’s own genome. And in fact, these are often changes that are already found in the wild. And this is simply an approach to bring those specific traits into products faster than a traditional breeding cycle, which would take many, many years. It could be for example drought tolerance, or perhaps something that touches the consumer a little bit closer: today I met someone who’s involved with a company who’d like to make allergen free peanuts using gene editing.
Sam Fiorello: One of the things we need to be sure of right now is getting in front of both the regulatory framework for use of Crispr, and help the general public understand the importance of that tool. Because frankly with some of our work in sub-Saharan Africa for example, we’ve had scientific solutions for some of the targets that we’re going after, that keep poor farmers from having the quality of life that we hope for – we need to get ahead of that with Crispr, so that all the tools can get into farmers’ fields and on the plates of consumers as soon as possible.
Rachel Haurwitz: I think having consumer trust and consumer acceptance is the number one challenge to ultimately seeing these products in the market. Consumers are quickly getting more educated about their food, and unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation about where our food comes from. And so I think we have an obligation to really explain to consumers what this technology is, what it isn’t, what it enables, and how we measure whether it’s safe or not.