CRISPR gene-edited cassava could help stave off food crisis in Nigeria

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Bt Cassava would help farmers fight off pests that threaten crop yields

Cassava brown streak disease can keep a cassava farmer awake at night. It can lead to complete crop loss, is difficult to detect and resistant varieties of the crop are proving to be not-so-resistant.

“It’s an epidemic in eastern Africa, and by all accounts, this is going to get to West Africa, and it’s going to hit Nigeria,” said Nigel Taylor, interim director of the Institute for International Crop Improvement at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center located in St. Louis, Missouri. “Nigeria is the largest cassava-producing country in the world. There will be a food security issue when it gets there.”

Nigel and other researchers are working to stay ahead of cassava brown streak using a new technology: Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat, or CRISPR. CRISPR allows geneticists to identify a specific genetic sequence within an organism’s DNA, bind an enzyme to that sequence and cut it off, effectively shutting off the expression of the genes in the targeted sequence.

CRISPR technology has edited two genes in cassava, disabling the virus’s ability to replicate and infect the plant. Scientists plan to edit the remaining five genes that influence the disease in the coming months.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: CRISPR Gene Editing Aims to Improve ‘Orphan Crops’

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