From health clinics to farms, CRISPR has a bright future, but diligence required to limit ‘off-target’ effects

nanotubes x
Credit: UC Berkeley graphic by Ella Marushchenko

The ability to make targeted, intentional changes in chromosomal DNA using the tools of genome editing has been a tremendous boon to the practice of genetics, particularly with the advent of the easy-to-operate CRISPR platform. The technology is also making its way to the clinic and the farmer’s field with applications that promise to have significant benefits for humanity.

Genome editing is being applied to crop plants and livestock, with the goal of establishing more secure and nutritious food sources. These applications benefit from the ability to expand favorable traits rapidly from a small number of founders via seed or semen.

Individuals from the first few generations can be characterized …. to identify off-target mutations and by careful phenotyping to reveal any adverse effects on either the health of the organism or the quality of the food product.

Incidental mutations that create such problems would not be propagated, and those that have no adverse effects can certainly be tolerated. Many existing strains of crop plants were derived by breeding selection after broad, random mutagenesis with radiation or chemicals; and those strains retain a substantial load of background mutations that are never characterized or acknowledged

In every application of genome editing, a thorough risk:benefit analysis should be applied. Both sides of that comparison will be particular to the situation at hand and, therefore, difficult to generalize. With the tools currently available for analysis and avoidance of unwanted genomic cleavage, most applications will not be limited by off-target mutagenesis, as long as users are diligent in their approach.

Read full, original article: Collateral damage: benchmarking off-target effects in genome editing

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

As Europe sees record coronavirus cases and deaths, Slovakia is testing its entire adult population. WSJ's Drew Hinshaw explains how ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend