CRISPR avocados could withstand climate change, but political, scientific roadblocks remain

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[In August], a team of scientists …. announced that it had mapped the DNA sequences of several types of avocados …. That research is likely to become the foundation for breeding techniques and genetic modifications designed to produce avocados that can resist disease or survive in drier conditions.

“Because of climate change, temperature might not be the same, humidity might not be the same, the soil might be different, new insects will come and diseases will come,” said Luis Herrera-Estrella, a plant genomics professor at Texas Tech University who led the avocado project. “We need to be prepared to contend with all these inevitable challenges.”

Still, the genetic research is likely to be controversial …. [M]any environmental advocacy groups oppose genetic alterations …. Dr. Herrera-Estrella and his collaborators in Mexico have already had to navigate the complex politics of biotechnology.

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Their avocado project began in 2012 with a $2.5 million grant from the Mexican agriculture ministry. Three years later, however, the government — which has grown increasingly resistant to genetic research and biotechnology over the years — declined to renew the funding ….

The researchers also faced scientific hurdles …. Analyzing the [avocado’s] genetic material was like gluing together a document that had gone through a paper shredder, Dr. Herrera-Estrella said.

Read full, original article: Avocado Toast, Meet Gene Editing

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