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Domestication ‘reboot’: CRISPR gene editing turns wild plants into desirable fruits and vegetables

| | April 17, 2019
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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Early in the 20th century, a strange tomato plant took root in the northeastern United States. Because of a random genetic mutation, the plant’s branches were shorter than normal. The result was a more compact crop that was easier to harvest. “Breeders started using it,” says Joyce Van Eck, a plant biologist with Boyce Thompson Institute in New York. “Over time, the trait revolutionized commercial tomato production.”

The tomato’s genetic history is typical of produce: Accident has driven the domestication of practically every fruit and vegetable. But Van Eck is one of a growing number of geneticists who envision an alternative approach to cultivation. Labs like hers throughout the world want to reboot history. They’re starting with wild ancestors and relatives of modern crop plants, which have their own appealing features. Then, using a novel gene-editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9, they’re deliberately introducing commercially desirable traits.

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The CRISPR-Cas9 system, successfully launched in 2013, was perfect for the job….All [researchers] had to do was use CRISPR-Cas9 in a wild tomato plant to whittle away the DNA guiding the growth of long shoots. Then [they’d] have….[a] compact plant with ancient traits, like flavor and nutrients.

Read full, original article: A New Green Revolution: Scientists Are Using CRISPR to Re-domesticate Fruits and Vegetables

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