ITO Thailand Hygiene Blog
Gene Editing Technology and Its Benefits
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats-Cas9, also as known as CRISPR-Cas9 system, plant breeding technology is used by plant bioengineers to make gene-edited foods, as the CRISPR molecule with CRISPR-associated genes, also as known as Cas genes, is able to recognise DNA sequences of plants, then it is amended for a preferable sequel, thus scientists are able to improve the quality of plants, designing a more aesthetically pleasing, disease-resistant, yield improved crops, and much more (ISAAA, 2022).
It is a technology that is used to modify attributes of an organism, including: animals, plants, and bacteria, by alteration of DNA sequences, making changes to the characteristics of the organism (Dace, 2021). With the ability to alter the quality of an organism with a predictable outcome in a shorter time, gene editing is used in various industries such as healthcare, agriculture, food, etc. There are discussions on the benefits of gene editing in the food industry such as an ability to produce a healthier food as the modification for desired qualities is possible, food products with a longer shelf life can be achieved, e.g., high-oleic soybean oil with zero trans fats and perform well during cooking (Voytas et al., 2021), an improvement of nutritional contents such as high-protein, or high-fibre foods (Knisley, 2021).
Difference between Gene Editing and GMOs
There is a slight difference between these two technologies. In general, genetically modified organism (GMOs), also as known as genetic engineering, is related with the alteration of genetic material (DNA) (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2022b), including the transfer of genes from an organism to another, e.g., in the US, GMO corn can produce toxic protein that is harmful to undesirable pests, but safe for animals, or human consumption (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2022a). However, gene editing is focused on the editing of genetic material and is not involved with the transfer of genes between organisms (Moore, 2022). Gene editing has received a better perception, and public acceptance rate is higher than GMOs because countries, e.g., the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan (Knisley, 2021), and the United Kingdom (Ghosh, 2022), have recognised the difference between them, and legislations are put in place to provide guidelines on how to correctly utilise gene-edited foods. On the contrary, the European Court of Justice has stated that gene-edited foods should be considered like GMOs, which has a strict statute in the European Union (Mao et al., 2019).
Application and Future Development
The application of gene editing technology has been extensively discussed regarding the possibility to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as an increase of 22% in yield and 68% in farm profitability have been recorded, with rice, wheat, and corn are considered as the most important crops for gene editing (Smyth, 2022). Gene-edited rice could improve yield, cold tolerance, disease tolerance, bacterial resistance (Li et al., 2019; Oliva et al., 2019; Zeng et al., 2020), while gene-edited wheat also has an improved yield, i.e., larger seed size and gaining more weight, better quality, disease resistance (J. Li et al., 2021; Wang et al., 2018), and resistance against fluctuating climates (Pearce, 2021). Finally, gene-edited corn is providing more yield (more rows of seed per cob) (Cyranoski, 2021), as well as digestibility improvement and resistance against extreme climates (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology, 2022). Researchers in Japan have used CRISPR-Cas9 technology to breed gene-edited tomato with gamma-aminobutryric acid (GABA) enhancement, an amino acid that is contributing to lower blood pressure and associated with relaxation (Waltz, 2021).
Moreover, gene-editing technology has received positive public perception as it could potentially improve animal welfare. A great example is the utilisation of gene-editing in male pigs to avoid reaching puberty, so castration is not required to prevent a ‘boar-taint’, a unpreferable odour usually occurred upon cooking of uncastrated male pigs (Torrella, 2022).
As previously stated, gene-editing technology is considered as an innovation with various beneficial features to the food industry, it is important to understand the principle, the procedure, and how it affects food products. There are limitations and challenges such as the lack of biological process understanding is resulting in the limited choices of plant species, the need of high-precision procedures to produce a desired result (Yang, 2020), as well as the requirement to improve public perception as it has not been fully accepted yet by the public, e.g., the European Union. As soon as scientists and researchers can confirm that the benefits really outweigh the risks, this gene-editing technology can be considered as an innovative innovation, and significantly provide a value-added food product.
Cyranoski, D. (2021). CRISPR super-sizes corn. Nature Biotechnology, 39(8), 902. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41587-021-01028-w
Dace, H. (2021). Gene Editing in Food Production: Charting a Way Forward. Institute for Global Change. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://institute.global/policy/gene-editing-food-production-charting-way-forward
Ghosh, P. (2022). Government sends gene-edited food bill to Parliament. BBC News. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-61563299
ISAAA. (2022). Plant Breeding Innovation: CRISPR-Cas9. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/pocketk/54/default.asp
Knisley, S. (2021). Gene Editing Innovations Present Many Benefits To Farmers And Their Customers. U.S. Wheat Associates. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.uswheat.org/wheatletter/gene-editing-innovations-present-many-benefits-to-farmers-and-their-customers/
Li, J., Li, Y., & Ma, L. (2021). Recent advances in CRISPR/Cas9 and applications for wheat functional genomics and breeding. aBIOTECH, 2(4), 375–385. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42994-021-00042-5
Li, S., Shen, L., Hu, P., Liu, Q., Zhu, X., Qian, Q., Wang, K., & Wang, Y. (2019). Developing disease‐resistant thermosensitive male sterile rice by multiplex gene editing. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology, 61(12), 1201–1205. https://doi.org/10.1111/jipb.12774
Mao, Y., Botella, J. R., Liu, Y., & Zhu, J. K. (2019). Gene editing in plants: progress and challenges. National Science Review, 6(3), 421–437. https://doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nwz005
Moore, S. (2022). Could CRISPR Change the Future of our Food? AZoLifeSciences. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.azolifesciences.com/article/Could-CRISPR-Change-the-Future-of-our-Food.aspx
Oliva, R., Ji, C., Atienza-Grande, G., Huguet-Tapia, J. C., Perez-Quintero, A., Li, T., Eom, J. S., Li, C., Nguyen, H., Liu, B., Auguy, F., Sciallano, C., Luu, V. T., Dossa, G. S., Cunnac, S., Schmidt, S. M., Slamet-Loedin, I. H., Vera Cruz, C., Szurek, B., . . . Yang, B. (2019). Broad-spectrum resistance to bacterial blight in rice using genome editing. Nature Biotechnology, 37(11), 1344–1350. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41587-019-0267-z
Pearce, R. (2021). Better wheat varieties ahead. Country Guide. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.country-guide.ca/crops/cereals/better-wheat-varieties-ahead/
Smyth, S. J. (2022). Contributions of Genome Editing Technologies Towards Improved Nutrition, Environmental Sustainability and Poverty Reduction. Frontiers in Genome Editing, 4. https://doi.org/10.3389/fgeed.2022.863193
Torrella, K. (2022). How gene editing could improve — or worsen — animal welfare in the meat industry. Vox. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.vox.com/22994946/gene-editing-farm-animals-livestock-crispr-genetic-engineering
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2022a). GMO Crops, Animal Food, and Beyond. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/food/agricultural-biotechnology/gmo-crops-animal-food-and-beyond
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2022b). GMOs and Your Health. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/media/135280/download
VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology. (2022). Applications submitted for new field trials with genome-edited maize. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.psb.ugent.be/news/applications-submitted-new-field-trials-genome-edited-maize
Voytas, D., Whitham, S., Lyons, J., & Gomez, M. (2021). What Benefits Can Gene Editing Bring to Food Quality and Sustainability? Best Food Facts. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.bestfoodfacts.org/what-benefits-can-gene-editing-bring-to-food-quality-and-sustainability/
Waltz, E. (2021). GABA-enriched tomato is first CRISPR-edited food to enter market. Nature Biotechnology, 40(1), 9–11. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41587-021-00026-2
Wang, W., Simmonds, J., Pan, Q., Davidson, D., He, F., Battal, A., Akhunova, A., Trick, H. N., Uauy, C., & Akhunov, E. (2018). Gene editing and mutagenesis reveal inter-cultivar differences and additivity in the contribution of TaGW2 homoeologues to grain size and weight in wheat. Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 131(11), 2463–2475. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00122-018-3166-7
Yang, B. (2020). Grand Challenges in Genome Editing in Plants. Frontiers in Genome Editing, 2. https://doi.org/10.3389/fgeed.2020.00002
Zeng, Y., Wen, J., Zhao, W., Wang, Q., & Huang, W. (2020). Rational Improvement of Rice Yield and Cold Tolerance by Editing the Three Genes OsPIN5b, GS3, and OsMYB30 With the CRISPR–Cas9 System. Frontiers in Plant Science, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2019.01663
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