In five years, we will have food, a modified CRISPR, says a geneticist who had a hand in the invention of this incredible technology for editing genes. While ethicists discuss the use of CRISPR in human health, the Creator of this tool believes that it will find better use in improving our food. “I think that in the next five years, the deepest that we will see from the point of view of the impact of CRISPR on daily life, will occur in the agricultural segment,” says Jennifer Doudna, a geneticist at the University of California at Berkeley, which developed the CRISPR experiments with bacteria in 2012.
As CRISPR will change what we eat
CRISPR has dozens of potential applications, from the treatment of such diseases as sickle cell anemia, to eliminate certain hereditary forms of blindness. Not so long ago about this tool, learned a large number of people far from science: when the Chinese scholar, with his help, edited the DNA of the two girls-twins. And went to jail for it. Moreover, the very Doudna put it mildly, disapprovingly, writing about this scientist column in Time.
There are also practical applications of CRISPR — which we can see in grocery stores and in farmers ‘ fields in ten years, says Doudna.
The attractiveness of CRISPR in the food segment are simple: it is cheaper and easier traditional breeding methods, including those used for the production of genetically modified crops (aka GMOs) currently. CRISPR is much more accurate. Where traditional methods of cut elimination of the genome of culture with a dull knife, CRISPR works with the precision and accuracy of a scalpel.
Want mushrooms that are not brown? Corn that gives more yield per square meter? These products already exist, though not yet reached to the plates of consumers. How about strawberries with a longer shelf life or tomatoes, are best stored in the window?
“I think all of this will be relatively quick,” says Doudna.
Work on CRISPR has been more than five years, but only recently U.S. regulators have charted a steady path for the withdrawal of products CRISRP on the market.
In 2016, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania used this tool to make mushrooms not brown, and other colors. Last spring, Pairwise startup has attracted $ 125 million from agricultural giant Monsanto to work on the modified CRISPR products and display them in the stores for decades. A month later, Stefan Jansson, head of the Department of plant physiology at the Swedish University of Umea, raised and ate the world’s first CRISPR-cabbage (variety of Kale).
Recently, several Silicon valley startups have begun to experiment with CRISPR for the production of “meat in a tube”.
Memphis Meats, a startup with the support of famous personalities such as bill gates and Richard Branson who have made these chicken fingers and meat balls prototypes of animal cells (without killing any animal), also uses this tool. As New Age Meats, another startup from San Francisco that is trying to create real meat without slaughter.
Last spring, the Ministry of agriculture has issued a new regulation on agricultural crops, which releases a number of crops modified with CRISPR, from supervision, which usually accompanies conventional GMOs. While these cultures edited by CRISPR, they are not subject to additional regulatory burdens.
“With this approach, USDA seeks to enable innovation, when there is no risk,” says agriculture Minister Sonny Perdue. Tools for genome editing “will help farmers to do what we aspire to USDA: do it right and feed all.”
Despite mixed responses on the topic of this initiative, Doudna believes that CRISPR-food may contribute to the dissipation of fear around GMOs and to raise people’s awareness about the role of science in agriculture. In the end, we need to feed billions of people.
And you are against CRISPR-products? Please share your opinion in our chat in Telegram.