From disease-resistant bananas to biofortified potatoes, gene editing could make our food more plentiful and nutritious

Credit: Bruno Morandi/Hemis/Corbis
Credit: Bruno Morandi/Hemis/Corbis

Molecular biologists at multiple CGIAR [Consortium of International Agricultural Research] centers shared information about gene editing work underway at the centers and at partnering organizations. Most of the gene editing work shared is being done using knock-out or knock-down approaches without introducing foreign genes.

In chickpea, ICRISAT [International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics] is working on improving seed size and quality by editing a family of transcription regulators that result in increased seed size, which is beneficial as bigger seeds have a higher market value.

In Common Bean, CIAT has been targeting two genes that synthesize complex sugars that are not easily digested in humans and animals. The edited events are underway and the team is segregating the Cas9 gene for product development.

Aflatoxin is the biggest food safety issue in groundnut and many other crops, Dr [Pooja] Bhatnagar-Mathur said, while explaining the approach where comparative proteome profiling of near immune transgenic/ HIGS groundnuts and their wild type counterparts revealed susceptibility factors to aflatoxin and fungal infection. Using CRISPR, knock down of these susceptibility factors is being attempted to induce resistance without any insert.

Related article:  CRISPR study reporting 'off-target mutations' draws skepticism from other researchers
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Dr [Leena] Tripathi also shared details about work to develop bacterial, fungal and downy mildew resistance in susceptible banana. Gene editing work in cassava at CIAT, potato and sweet potato at CIP and Yam at IITA was also presented.

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