Just get used to the word CRISPR, because five years from now, you might be eating CRISPR edited corn for your breakfast. There’s already a little CRISPR in your yogurt.CRISPR tomatoes and CRISPR’d pork might follow!
CRISPR Cas9 is a new technology that makes it possible to quickly and easily edit DNA. This is changing the future of food. The method could eventually be used to edit anything we eat, selecting traits that can make agriculture more environmentally sustainable and productive, or the result in healthier food. Here are five facts which will show you how far we have come:
1. An alternative food supply
Scientists are working on CRISPR/Cas9-edited versions of crops like corn, soybeans, canola, rice, and wheat, which is expected to hit the market in 5 to 10 years. These plants have traits like drought resistance and higher yield. In the world where the population is growing faster than the food supply, this proves to be a boon. CRISPR will also help in removing allergens in peanuts or make food more nutritious by using genes that naturally occur in the plant.
2. CRISPR For Banana
It might also save the modern banana. The Cavendish banana, the only type of banana sold in most grocery stores—because it is grown around the world as a monoculture crop—is on the verge of extinction because of a fungal disease. While some researchers are racing to test less-common varieties of bananas to try to find an alternative, a Korean researcher hopes to use CRISPR to snip out the receptor that the fungus uses, so it would no longer affect.
3. Healthy Livestock
CRISPR might help to keep the livestock healthier without relying on antibiotics, which are overused in animals, and that is leading to antibiotic resistance, which kills humans. Most antibiotics are very broad-spectrum—when you consume them, they wipe out the good guys and the bad guys indiscriminately—CRISPR is opening new doors for programmable antibiotics whereby you could selectively eradicate a pathogenic species. One pig disease costs farmers $600 million a year; researchers have created a gene-edited version of pigs that could not catch the illness. Twenty percent of all animals raised for food are lost to disease, which is a massive sustainability problem as well as a cause of animal suffering.
4. Gene Editing
Gene editing will make possible changes in which traditional breeding could not. Other meat might be gene-edited to be healthier. The same Korean researchers working on the Cavendish banana have also created an extra bulky variety of pig, so it can produce leaner cuts of pork.
5. In Natural form
CRISPR can also be used in its natural form, and it already is. When CRISPR was first researched, it mainly focused on cheese and yogurt. It is very common in the dairy industry for viruses to attack the cultures which are used for fermentation, which can lead to the loss of thousands or even millions of gallons of milk in a single instance. By selecting variants of the cultures that naturally get vaccinated against viruses, the industry can prevent that from happening.
It is possible that CRISPR-edited food might not be seen the same way. In some cases, when the technology is simply used for the deletion of a gene in a plant, rather than adding in anything from another species, it is not considered GMO. The plant looks genetically identical to something that could have been created through cross-breeding or evolution.