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Ed Leahy


Gene editing could herald new green revolution

The new method of breeding fruit and veg dubbed "CRISPR" can make fresh produce more appealing and healthier

Gene editing could herald new green revolution

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New breeding technology can drive more consumers to fruit and veg by designing more colourful and tasty varieties.

In a review article published yesterday in journal Trends in Plant Science, two food researches discuss how the ability to fast breed with CRISPR gene editing can create an array of superior fruit and usher in the “next green revolution”.

CRISPR doesn’t rely on the addition of a new DNA sequences as is the case with other GM crops, but allow scientists to edit already existing genes.

"Novelty drives a lot of first time purchasing," says Andrew Allan of New Zealand science institute Plant & Food Research, who co-wrote the article with Richard Espley. "If the experience is good, then the consumer will purchase again. Choice is key, there is no risk with more choice."

Allen and Espley are focused in particular on genes know as “MYBs”, which dictate the main characteristics of a plant.

"MYBs often regulate the compounds that generate a fruit or vegetables' 'wow' factor, its color," Allan says. "These compounds are also associated with important health benefits such as lowering cardiovascular disease or acting as vitamins. By using MYBs to elevate these compounds to create a richer color, we can make produce both more appealing to consumers and more beneficial for the human diet."

CRISPR can also help bolster the nutritional makeup of produce by changing the distribution of nutrients. In apples and potatoes, where most nutrients are concentrated in the skin, altering MYBs can spread healthy compounds throughout the flesh.

Allen says this sort of gene editing through CRISPR could bring about the next green revolution “with more product choice for developed countries, greater yields for less developed countries, and more growing options for climate resilience," he adds.

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