Canada is ripe for food innovation.

Gene editing is a proven solution for making healthier food, stronger crops and increasing yields all while using fewer resources.

See how Canada can benefit
from gene editing.

So, what exactly 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 taking a decade or more to get the desired result. Gene editing tools make the process of improving plants much more efficient.

Watch this video to learn more about the history of plant breeding.

SEE OUR PLANT SUCCESS STORIES >

What kind of
improvements are
being made?

More
Resistance

More
Nutritious

More
Adaptable

Fewer
Resources

Gene editing is used to help prevent plant diseases, produce higher crop yields with less resources, make plants more adaptable to climate change, and reduce food waste.

It’s even making some of your favorite foods healthier and tastier. Imagine a world where even your typical supper was even healthier for you — gene editing can help make that happen.

SEE MORE BENEFITS OF GENE EDITING >

How does gene editing 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.

We have been breeding plants for thousands of years and CRISPR is the most efficient and precise plant breeding tool to date, leading to stronger and healthier plants, and more benefits for farmers, consumers, and the environment.

Is Gene Editing Safe?

Yes, gene editing is safe. A recent report reflecting the views of thousands of scientists clearly states that gene editing within a plant's own genetic code is just as safe as traditional breeding.

Is gene editing the same as GMOs?

Gene editing a plant’s own DNA does not create a GMO. While they are all tools used during plant breeding to improve plants, genetically modified organisms typically include new DNA from another, different organism. Gene editing on the other hand focuses on using a plant’s own genetic code. This means that the changes made to a plant through gene editing are similar to the kinds of changes you might see naturally over time or as a result of the plant breeding practices we have been applying for thousands of years. Gene editing just lets us make them in a quicker and more precise way.

Benefits

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.

Improving
Sustainability

There’s only so much land available in the world to grow food. Gene editing can help increase crop yields, on the same amount or even less land, using fewer resources helping to decrease the environmental impact of producing food. We call that a win-win-win.

Adapting to
climate change

Whether it’s flooding, drought or increased salinity, farmers are having to grow food in more unpredictable and challenging conditions. 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.

Improved
nutrition

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

Don’t you hate it when you bring vegetables or fruit home, and they go brown within a couple of days? Well, gene editing can help improve the shelf life of some fruits and vegetables to reduce food waste.

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

Less gluten in your wheat? You heard that right. Plant breeders are gene editing plants to address food sensitivities and remove common allergens so that 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.

Canada is ripe for food innovation.

Meet, 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!

Tomato's Friends:

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.

High Fibre Wheat's Friends:

Meet Soybean.

They call me High Oleic Soybean. My oil contains less of the harmful saturated fatty acids and several times more of the healthy monounsaturated oleic acid than oil from my conventional counterparts. If you happen to be in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota you can even try me in certain Midwestern restaurants.

Soybean's Friends:

Meet Cavendish Banana.

I know I sound fancy, but really, I’m the ordinary banana you find in heaps at your supermarket. What’s special about me is I reproduce solo, through cuttings (like some of your favorite house plants!). Unfortunately, this also makes me at high risk for diseases. Scientists are currently working on making me more disease resistant through gene editing so that you’ll never have to live in a world without me.

Cavendish Banana's Friends:

If you want to see more about what is happening with gene editing check out Innovature

About

Thank you for stopping by. This campaign is supported by organizations and individuals who want Canada, and its citizens to reap the economic, environmental, and consumer benefits of agricultural innovations like gene editing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Simply put, plant breeding is a process used to improve the genetic potential of plants. In other words, it leads to plants with more desirable characteristics. Just about everything we eat has been improved in the past thousands of years. This has occurred either through evolution in nature or conventional plant breeding techniques.

What sets gene editing apart from other plant breeding techniques is the precision and targeted nature of the changes being made. Extensive research is conducted in advance of gene editing a plant to confirm what a gene does, and what gene{s} should be edited to get the desired result. This level of precision has only been possible in the last few decades as a result of important breakthroughs in genome sequencing.

Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like! Let’s take a recent development – a disease resistant banana – to illustrate the point. Breeders used gene editing to increase disease tolerance in the Cavendish banana. This same result could have happened by crossing commercial bananas with a wild banana variety with the sought-after disease tolerance, but it would have taken much longer and likely brought some of the unwanted traits from the wild banana as well (such as a smaller size or big seeds). To eliminate those undesirable attributes, it would take even more years of breeding. With gene editing, breeders were instead able to take what they knew about disease resistance in the wild banana and use it to make edits to the commercial variety to create a disease-resistant banana in a really precise and efficient way.

Gene editing technology is not new, and it actually evolved in nature. Scientists have adapted this natural process to use with plants, leading to the first gene editing tools for plant breeding over two decades ago. The popular clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) tool has been around for almost a decade and subject to extensive research. Many scientists around the world have demonstrated that the use of genome editing tools is as safe as the methods we have used for thousands of years in conventional breeding.

Health Canada recently supported the safety of this breeding tool in their recent consultation document where they said, “Through a review of the current scientific knowledge regarding the use of gene editing technologies to develop new plant varieties, Health Canada concludes that the use of gene editing technologies does not present any unique safety concerns compared to other methods of plant breeding.”

Nope. In fact, it will do the opposite! As the environment continues to change, we need plants that are stronger in the face of climactic pressure. Gene editing can create plants that are more resilient and produce higher yields, using fewer resources, reducing the costs normally associated with crop production. This will help keep food prices affordable for Canadians and can even help make a wider variety of healthy foods more accessible around the world.

The focus of gene editing in plants is to simply facilitate traditional breeding practices to make the same changes that occur in conventional plant breeding, just more precisely and efficiently. Gene editing is a collection of tools with broad capabilities. Scientists are largely focused on using gene editing to make improvements within the plant’s own genetic code. However, gene editing could be used to transfer DNA from one species to another, in which case that product would be considered a GMO.

When a plant breeder embarks on a project to breed a better plant, no matter if they are conventionally breeding, using gene editing or any of the many other plant breeding tools, they know that it’s going to be a lot of work (often more than 10 years just for one variety!). There are many steps plant breeders take before bringing a new variety to market, no matter what form of plant breeding they use. This process ensures that any unwanted or unintended changes are identified and removed because if the new variety is not better than the one they are trying to improve on then they have not succeeded.