Bread and chocolate are staples of the American diet. And a scientific team in California is working hard to make sure the plants they’re made from are as robust as possible. They’re using a recently discovered bacterial gene-editing tool called CRISPR to create more pest-resistant crops.
CRISPR is a feature of the bacterial defense system. The microbes use it like a molecular pair of scissors, to precisely snip out viral infections in their DNA.
Scientists at the Innovative Genomics Institute in Berkeley, California, are using CRISPR to manipulate plant DNA. Managing director, Susan Jenkins, says the technique is so much faster and precise than other plant transformation methods, it will likely increase the speed of creating new plant varieties by years, if not decades. “What CRISPR is going to allow,” she explains, “is for us to go in and make these changes, and then within one generation of the plant actually have the trait we want.”
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