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The Global Pipeline of GM Crops

Question 1. What is gene editing and how it is different from conventional plant Transgenesis?

Answer 1. Gene Editing: Gene editing which is also known as genome editing is the addition, removal, or replacement of part of double-stranded DNA in living organisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi, plants, and humans. In this method, a part of DNA is separated from its parent DNA strand and then it is replaced by a new strand of DNA. Several technologies have been designed to achieve gene editing including Zinc-Finger Nucleases (ZFNs), Transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), and Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) associated protein 9 (Cas9) (Gaj, Sirk, Shui & Liu, 2016).

Gene editing involves the removal of DNA in the organism using specifically designed technologies and it is replaced by another DNA sequence by the host plant itself. It develops plants with specifically desired characteristics. While plant Transgenesis involves the addition of new foreign DNA strands to the existing DNA sequence of the host plant resulting in the development of new characteristics in the plant.

Question 2. What is your personal position on GM crops?

Answer 2. Genetically modified crops can be developed using Transgenesis in plants. This technique is used to develop plants with new characteristics that enhance their productivity. It has been actively used in several countries since 2014 for the production of a new variety of crops (Parisi, Tillie & Rodríguez-Cerezo, 2016). Its application produces fruits and vegetables with enhanced shelf-life. GM crops also reduce the use of pesticides as they are resistant to insects improving the quality of crops. It holds the potential in producing more commercially valuable agricultural products which are not only limited to food. GM crops have not only benefitted the agricultural sector with quality of crop but also from a commercial point of view.

References for Gene Editing and Transgenesis

Gaj, T., Sirk, S. J., Shui, S.-L. & Liu, J. (2016). Genome-editing technologies: Principles and applications. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology, 8(12), a023754. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a023754

Parisi, C., Tillie, P. & Rodríguez-Cerezo, E. (2016). The global pipeline of GM crops out to 2020. Nature Biotechnology, 34(1), 31-36.

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