Canada is ripe for plant breeding innovation
Gene editing is a proven solution for making healthier food, stronger crops and increasing yields all while using fewer resources.
So what is gene editing?
We’re glad you asked! Gene editing involves making specific changes to the genetic code of an organism to enhance desirable qualities and remove undesirable ones. When it involves plants, it’s categorized as a form of plant breeding. Traditional plant breeding methods can take a long time – sometimes a decade or more to get the desired result. Gene editing tools make the process of improving plants much more efficient.
Want a deeper dive?
You can learn more about plant breeding by watching this video.
Why do we need gene editing?
From droughts, to floods, to diseases, and pests, plants face a lot of challenges. At the same time, as the population grows, and consumer preferences change, the demand for food is on the rise.
Agricultural innovation, with help from gene editing, is making the food system more sustainable and resilient while meeting the needs of consumers.
Gene editing can help increase crop yields on the same amount or even less land, while using fewer resources, helping to decrease the environmental impact of producing food. We call that a win-win-win.
Adapting to climate change
As the impacts of climate change continue to challenge farmers, gene editing can help develop heartier plants that are better able to survive difficult conditions.
Gene editing can make food products healthier, for example, by lowering saturated or trans fats or increasing the quantity of nutritional components.
Reducing food waste
Gene editing can help improve the shelf life of some fruits and vegetables to reduce food waste.
Using fewer resources like water and land.
Increasing crop yields
More food, less land. It’s as simple as that. Gene editing can help improve yields through better disease and pest resistance, meaning healthier crops which produce more food from each plant.
Reducing dietary challenges
Plant breeders are gene editing plants to address food sensitivities and remove common allergens so more people can safely enjoy more products.
Reducing food costs
Supply and demand my friend. If we are able to produce more plants, on less land, using less resources, we will be able to substantially increase the supply of foods, meaning lower costs for consumers.
How does it work?
There are various tools used for gene editing, but one of the most talked about is CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). Try saying that five times fast!
CRISPR was recognized for its potential when its inventors were awarded a 2020 Nobel Prize. It has a wide range of potential uses across healthcare, energy, industrial materials, agriculture and more. In agriculture, scientists are focused on using tools like CRISPR to make improvements within a plant’s own genetic code.
Hmm sounds cool, but is it safe?
Yes, gene editing is safe. And you don’t have to take our word for it! Thousands of scientists have clearly stated that gene editing within a plant’s own genetic code is just as safe as traditional breeding. Health Canada agrees.
Read the report from thousands of scientists.
Meet some gene edited plants
Meet, High Fibre Wheat
Did you know that most adults only consume about half of the recommended amount of fibre in their diet? Worry not, I’m here to fix that. I contain three times more dietary fibre than standard white flour. That means I’m great for your health, potentially helping to control blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and achieve a healthy weight. You’re welcome.
Meet, High Yielding Tomato
Hi, I’m a CRISPR-Cas9 edited vine tomato. I’m just like any other tomato you know, except I grow more efficiently, in more compact bunches, meaning more tomatoes per plant. I also grow and ripen more quickly, ready to harvest in about five weeks. I don’t want to brag, but NASA scientists have even expressed interest in me!
Meet, Long Shelf-Life Strawberry
Coming to a grocery store near you, I’m going to be the first gene edited strawberry to hit the market. Did you know more than one third of all fresh strawberries bought by consumers end up in the trash? No more! CRISPR-Cas9 is helping me last longer and be more durable to bruising.
Meet, Climate Change Fighting Rice
Hi, I’m gene edited rice, and I’m here to help fight climate change. Scientists are enhancing me so that I’m better at trapping carbon dioxide. Even cooler, Jennifer Doudna’s (founder of CRISPR) Institute is leading the charge on getting me ready for market.