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How Genome editing help in coping with food demand?
Date: July 3, 2019
The new technique, used to rewrite the genetic code, is a better alternative to enhance the quality and quantity of the crops, writes Deepa Khare.
World population is increasing exponentially and is expected to grow further. As a result, there has been a proportionate increase in food demand. To fulfill the burgeoning demand for food and nutrition, the yield and nutritional value of food crops need to be enhanced, that too, with limited agricultural land. During the past few decades, crop food productivity has been increased through genetic modifications (GM) utilizing GMO technology. However, due to the huge controversy over the acceptance of GM crops, there is an urgent need to use alternative biotechnological techniques. The better alternative of GM crops can be genome editing.
It is intriguing to understand the difference between GM crops and the genome editing of crops. The GM crops or commonly known as transgenic crops are generated from copying the required gene from an organism (either plants, animals or microbes) and pasting it in the crop that needs to be modified. Whereas, the genome editing is the editing of the existing genome as per the requirement. In simple words, genome which is DNA is the book and genome editing is the like editing the book by the editor to make it better for readers. Traditionally, genome editing was achieved using breeding, however, breeding takes years to get the expected change in the crop.
GM Organisms (GMOs) are widely used for medical applications. However, GM crops are yet to gain wide acceptance in the world. It is assumed that the DNA from the GM crops can be horizontally transferred to the non-GM crops. Some GM crops are produced using genes which produce toxic compounds against pest attack such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops.
On the other hand, genome editing seems to be a better alternative to GM techcrops. The new unique used for genome editing known as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Inter Spaced Palindromic Repeats) coupled with Cas9 (a nuclease) is quite encouraging. It has been very successful for editing the genome of all organisms including the agricultural crops. Genome editing can be used to rewrite the genetic code according to the requirement without using transgene (a gene from a different organism).
No doubt there is an urge to improve the quality of the existing crops to enhance the yield and to resist several stresses including those caused by global warming. The improved crops are the only solution to fulfill the demand of the world to cope with hunger. Genome editing using the new technique is, therefore, a better alternative to enhance the quality and quantity of the crops. The Biotech program at Bennett University has implemented focussed R&D, designed exclusive lab facility for Genome Engineering and curricular activities such as core/elective courses and projects to utilize genome editing.
By Deepa Khare
Dept.of Biotechnology, Bennett University