From hunger to profitable harvest: How GMO, CRISPR-edited plants can help curb $220 billion in annual crop losses – Potato News Today

Posted: March 20, 2020 at 11:48 am

Plant diseases arguably pose the biggest threat to agriculture, exacting a dramatic economic toll and endangering the livelihoods of farmers all over the world, writes Steven Cerier in this article published by Genetic Literacy Project (GLP).

Cerier says in his article that fortunately, powerful innovations in plant genetics are inoculating globally important food crops against these devastating diseases. Such innovations include new breeding techniques (NBTs), particularly gene-editing tools like CRISPR, as well as more established breeding methods like transgenesis, used to develop GMO crops.

Collectively, these technologies are helping farmers safeguard their yields with sustainable, environmentally friendly disease-resistance measures. In developing countries this could be thedifference betweena profitable harvest and going hungry.

Like humans, plants have evolved an immune system that helps themfight off infectionsspread by insects, bacteria, viruses and fungi. But in the nonstop Darwinian struggle for survival, these microorganisms often outsmart the defenses plants muster to protect themselves. The tools of biotechnology were developed to give food crops a leg up in this struggle. Scientists can use CRISPR, for example, to delete DNA segments that make plants susceptible to infection.

Dozens of crops engineered to resist disease have already beendeveloped and approvedby regulators in the US and other countries.

Blight-tolerant spuds

Potatoes have been developed that are immune to late blight disease. Scientists in the Netherlands and Ireland have successfully carried out field trials of a disease-resistantgenetically engineered potato. The new variety was created through a process of cisgenesis, in which genes from a wild potato were used to confer disease resistance on its domesticated relative.

The disease-resistant crop reduced fungicide spraying by up to 90%, and is likely to be successful because the potato selected for the trials is already widely cultivated and consumed. If approved, itll just have the added blight-tolerance trait.

Scientists in Uganda have also created a genetically engineeredblight-resistantpotato. Five years of field trials have shown the variety is virtually 100 percent resistant to late blight disease and requires no chemical spraying, theInternational Potato Centersaid of the research.

Read the full article by Steven Cerier on this page of GLP

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From hunger to profitable harvest: How GMO, CRISPR-edited plants can help curb $220 billion in annual crop losses - Potato News Today

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