It is said that 30% of people are suffering from pollinosis [hay fever]. Research on producing pollen-free Sugi [Japanese red cedar] using genome editing is underway at the Forest Bio-Research Center (Hitachi City) of the Forest Research and Management Organization.
Sugi that does not produce pollen and Sugi that has little pollen have already been put into practical use by conventional crossing. It is said that there is one in thousands of Sugi that does not produce pollen due to mutation.
Natural pollen-free cedar may be inferior in terms of growth speed and material, and is not suitable for forestry as it is. Therefore, researchers will search for excellent offspring by multiplying with “Seieiki”, which grows quickly and has good forestry traits.
Regarding the advantages of genome editing, [researcher] Kenichi Kohase explains, “We can develop superior varieties in a short period of time compared to conventional breeding. Also, unlike genetic modification, we use the same mechanism as naturally occurring mutations.”
[Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Japanese and has been translated and edited for clarity.]