This Thanksgiving, we’re grateful for biotechnology like gene editing—which can help ensure our food supply will remain plentiful and sustainable in the face of climate challenges ahead.
Take the humble, and often overlooked, corn—which can show up on Thanksgiving creamed, in cornbread, or as a key player in succotash. As BIO’s Cornelia Poku explains, corn was one of the first commercially available genetically modified crops.
The first changes to corn took place about 10,000 years ago, when farmers began cross-breeding the crop to make the kernels stay in the ear.
Now, gene editing is ensuring it can withstand pests and extreme weather—in a faster, more precise way than traditional breeding techniques.
Other Thanksgiving standards being improved by gene editing include:
- Sweet potatoes are getting a boost in flavor, resilience, and vitamin A content, which could improve nutrition in economically depressed regions. They’re also being pest-proofed.
- The chestnuts in the stuffing could soon be more plentiful due to a gene-edited variety that resists the blight that almost killed off the American chestnut tree population.
- What’s Thanksgiving without pie? Berries are benefitting from a project involving the USDA, several universities, and agriculture company Pairwise to map the genome of berries. Using this knowledge, researchers are now building better berries.
- We can’t forget the dinner rolls—but bread is off-limits to the 1% of Americans who have celiac disease and therefore cannot tolerate the gluten protein. With CRISPR, researchers are developing gluten-free wheat.
The last bite: Gene editing has improved rapidly in recent years—and our food supply benefits. The more you know, the more you realize gene editing is not something to worry about, but rather something for which we can be thankful.
More Reading: This Thanksgiving, celebrate the abundance of good food
More Agriculture and Environment News:
The New York Times: A tool kit to help scientists find the ultimate chickpea
“A major plant genome sequencing effort may offer a path to breeding more climate-resilient chickpeas, while also revealing clues to the legume’s origins.”