Biotech startups race against ‘Big Ag’ to develop gene-edited crops

Calyxt Inc, an eight-year-old firm co-founded by a genetics professor, altered the genes of a soybean plant to produce healthier oil using the cutting-edge editing technique ….

Seventy-eight farmers planted those soybeans this spring across 17,000 acres in South Dakota and Minnesota, a crop expected to be the first gene-edited crop to sell commercially, beating out Fortune 500 companies.

Seed development giants such as Monsanto, Syngenta AG and DowDuPont Inc have dominated genetically modified crop technology that emerged in the 1990s. But they face a wider field of competition from start-ups and other smaller competitors because gene-edited crops have drastically lower development costs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided not to regulate them.

Related article:  3 advantage of editing RNA with CRISPR, including this: It's easier to erase mistakes

Relatively unknown firms including Calyxt, Cibus, and Benson Hill Biosystems are already advancing their own gene-edited projects in a race against Big Ag for dominance of the potentially transformational technology.

The newly competitive landscape could foster more partnerships and licensing deals between big and small firms, along with universities or other public research institutions, said Monsanto spokeswoman Camille Lynne Scott. Monsanto – which was recently acquired by Bayer AG – invested $100 million in startup Pairwise Plants this year to accelerate development of gene-edited plants.

Read full, original article: Gene-editing startups ignite the next ‘Frankenfood’ fight

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