How high-yielding CRISPR ‘waxy’ corn could boost public acceptance of gene editing

Credit: Brent Warren, Kurt Lawton (Corn) Getty Images (DNA rendering)

CRISPR-Cas is a breakthrough technology for crop improvement. But before CRISPR crops can be commercialized globally, public acceptance must be obtained, and workable regulatory policies must be established …. [I]f public acceptance is low or regulations are unnecessarily burdensome, CRISPR will be …. affordable to just a handful of multinational companies. This is what happened with transgenic (GMO) technology.

“Waxy” is a type of corn that has been cultivated for over 100 years.  Waxy corn has a different starch composition than normal corn, which makes it preferable for some cooking and industrial uses …. Over the years, many mutant waxy1 alleles have arisen naturally and have been generated through chemical or radiation mutagenesis.  We used CRISPR-Cas9 to precisely delete the Waxy1 gene in multiple elite lines.

Related article:  CRISPR-edited sorghum could provide needed protein to 500 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa

Importantly, CRISPR-waxy hybrids yielded more than their conventional counterparts …. We were surprised by the magnitude of yield advantage …. for CRISPR-waxy compared to the conventional waxy hybrids we evaluated.

CRISPR-waxy, in addition to delivering value to growers, is a product that should also help promote public and regulatory acceptance of CRISPR crops.  Corn with mutations in the Waxy1 gene created through chemical mutagenesis does not require additional regulatory approval; we think CRISPR-waxy should be treated similarly.

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