India’s scientists urge government to approve gene-edited crops to help battle yield losses

Agriculture and rural farms of India
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Unlike transgenic technology, in which genes from other organisms are inserted for developing better crops, the CRISPR-Cas9 technique makes it possible to add, remove or alter genetic material so as to add a beneficial trait or remove a deleterious one. It is largely considered safe as no foreign genes are used to alter the plant genome in most cases.

CRISPR-Cas9 can modify genetic material in the genome, like other gene editing tools such as zing finger nucleases and Transcription activator-like effector nuclease. The difference is that the new method, adapted from a naturally occurring gene editing system in bacteria, does the job more accurately and efficiently, and is cheaper and faster.

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India is still in the process of deciding whether to allow gene editing for better crops. “Indian scientists have been arguing that since SDN-1 and SDN-2 do not use any foreign gene, the crops developed using these methods should be treated as normal crops. Those developed using SDN-3 can be placed under GMO regulation,” says Chinnusamy Vishwanathan, Principal Scientist and Head of Department of Plant Physiology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi.

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