Canola, a crop that produces a heart-healthy type of cooking oil and was created in Canada via cross-breeding of plants, is being improved through gene editing, which is similar to cross-breeding but offers the promise of achieving generations worth of change very quickly.
As reported in Innovature, a team of Canadian researchers led by Marcus Samuel of the University of Calgary utilized CRISPR , a gene editing tool, to develop variations of canola that that are shorter, have more branches, and have more pods, thereby boosting yields. While the new canola varieties have not yet been commercialized, numerous seed businesses have showed interest, and Professor Samuel said he expects “his team will soon gain access to some proprietary gene plasm lines so his CRISPR research will move to actual application,” Innovature reports. “The professor is also exploring CRISPR solutions to what is called the ‘shatter tolerance’ of canola pods. Lower shatter makes harvesting easier and more productive. And that’s particularly important at a time when COVID-driven labor scarcity is impacting agricultural production.”
See the full Innovature report here.
Biotech more important than ever in food producing solutions
At the moment, the importance of biotechnology and gene-editing tools to provide more food to the world is greater than ever. First the COVID-19 pandemic and now the current war in Ukraine disrupted supply chains around the planet, causing shortages of wheat and other crops, as well as fertilizers needed to produce food.
Evidence shows that gene editing can assist in achieving three top United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): increasing yield, improving nutrition, and increasing environmental sustainability. According to a peer-reviewed paper written by Stuart J. Smyth of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, biotech can help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by promoting more environmentally sustainable agriculture, ending hunger, and achieving food security.
Applications of genome editing can also directly enhance human health by developing foods that can help prevent certain diseases while enhancing food nutritional value, for example GABA enriched tomatoes, tomatoes with higher levels of the healthy anti-oxidant lycopene.