The Future of Agriculture Depends on CRISPR

CRISPR does not only the capability of curing disease and altering the genes of human DNA, but it also has the potential of altering the genetic data of crops. GMOs have been a staple of the American farming industry for the better half of the last century because it produces efficiency within the economy. GMOs cut the time needed for crops to grow and for farmers and agricultural industries to turn a profit. Although it is beneficial to the economy, and trying to feed the nation as a whole, there are obvious repercussions for taking the easy way out.

These are the increased resistance to pesticides, the appearance of new allergies and other organism effects that are a result of consuming genetically modified foods. GMOs are spread primarily into crops through chemicals and other toxins that stimulate growth, help the crop retain its color and prevent the crop from being pest infested. What CRISPR can offer is the answer the organic farming community has been looking for: how can one ensure no food shortages, healthy options and increased human health? Although still a form of genetic modification, CRISPR does not come with the toxins that chemicals bring to people and the environment. The toxins that are emitted onto crops and harming the environment are creating more problems than solutions for the world. Instead, what genetically modifying tools can help create is altering the crop’s actual DNA and take away the harmful toxins that are in the environment and eaten by people altogether.

CRISPR is not only useful for altering the DNA of crops for farming purposes but for health purposes as well. This gene-editing tool can enable vegetables and fruits to carry even more health benefits and nutrients for those who cannot eat or drink certain foods.

As seen in the article linked above, corn now has the capability of carrying the same health benefits of meat and even more so, is on the verge of becoming the healthiest vegetable. Through doing this, imagine the hundreds of thousands of vegetarians who would no longer be deprived of the nutrients of meat or fish because those very same proteins are in the vegetables that they are more inclined to eat. If anything what CRISPR can accomplish is a win for the picky eaters who choose not to eat a certain food because they do not prefer the taste and now, they do not even have to. On that note, CRISPR has also been used to aid those with allergies such as those with allergies to gluten. Therefore, the allergies that people are suffering from, due to genetically modified chemicals, can now be combatted with gene therapy. As a result, these therapies can prove to be vital in easing the way of life for those with extensive food allergies whilst protecting people from future allergies to different crops because with all things remaining the same, not every human body will respond to a certain crop, genetically modified or not.

What CRISPR can also bring to the agriculture sector is a way to combat the environmental changes that are enveloping the world. With natural disasters and extreme weather becoming so common within the world, genetic engineering provides a solution to farmers and industries in this field. To think that CRISPR can be used to alter the genes of say oranges and allow for them to grow fruitfully in the winter or wheat that is capable of bracing extremely dry, or extremely wet, weather. This will make all types of crops accessible to places all over the world, battling hunger and providing for an a boost in the global economy for easily traded goods that be mass produced worldwide and shipped to various nations as a direct result. CRISPR gives nations the opportunity to expand their fight against world hunger in a way that was once thought to be impossible. Already this fall, apples that do not brown are going to be released into supermarkets and just with this launch alone, it should evident that genetically modifying the DNA of fruits and vegetables is not a thing of the future, but something that is happening and happening now.

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One Response to The Future of Agriculture Depends on CRISPR

  1. DC October 12, 2017 at 4:10 am #

    Michelle Pyantnychuk’s article, “The Future of Agriculture Depends on CRISPER” highlighted the potential benefits the gene editing tool, CRISPER, has on crops. Gene editing tools are biological machinery that have the capability of altering DNA at specific locations. This technology has been around since the 70’s and new techniques have been developing to increase efficiency and accuracy of these tools. Before CRISPER, the best gene editing tools were these complexes called TALE’s. To cut the DNA at a specific location, two TALE’s needed to be designed that would bind to the DNA that flanked the target region. Each TALE needed to be hundreds of amino acids long and the design and confirming the specificity of these TALE’s took time and energy. CRISPER, on the other hand, is much more efficient and are much easier to use. CRISPER is an adaptive immune system that bacteria use to fight off viral infections. When viral DNA enters a bacterium, the CRISPER system inserts this DNA into a specific region of its own DNA creating a sort of viral DNA bank. Part of the CRISPER system is a protein called Cas9 that has the ability to seek out and cut this viral DNA which will eventually be degraded. Scientists have realized the potential of this system as an extremely efficient gene editing tool with almost limitless applications.
    One such application is CRISPER’s use in crops. The farming industry has relied on genetically modifying crops to make them grow quicker, larger, resist pests, and retain their color. The problem with previous methods of growing GMO crops was that they were introduced to crops along with harmful chemicals and toxins. These chemicals and toxins damage the environment and lead to several other problems such as stronger, more adaptive pests. CRISPER can be used to genetically modify crops without the need to use chemicals and toxins. In addition to the decreased environmental damage, CRISPER can provide other health benefits by modifying crops to make them carry more nutrients. An example given in the article is to modify corn to carry protein giving vegetarians access to the protein without the need of eating meat. Another potential use of CRISPER is to design crops that can grow in unfavorable conditions. This way, farmers can grow fruit in the winter, wheat in the desert, and other crops in varying weather conditions. This increases the availability of crops to the world and may help in the fight against world hunger.
    In addition to agricultural intervention, CRISPER has several other potential applications, including disease prevention. Sickle cell anemia is a condition where the red blood cells are no longer their proper structure and become “sickled” in shape. This causes them to be less efficient at transporting oxygen to tissues and leads to several adverse health effects. Molecular biologists have determined that sickle cell anemia is caused by a single nucleotide substitution in the DNA for the hemoglobin changing an A base to a T base. This results in the conversion of a glutamic acid residue to a valine. CRISPER could be used on human embryos carrying the sickle cell mutation to correct the nucleotide substitution in the DNA and convert the valine residue back to a glutamic acid. CRISPER has the potential to cure several other diseases through similar techniques and is extremely exciting to health professionals. In addition to curing disease, CRISPER has the ability to give people favorable traits such as blue eyes, tall height, and much more.
    The potential uses of CRISPER come with ethical concern as we now have the ability to “edit” humans. Perhaps the full potential of the CRISPER technology may never be reached if we cannot overcome these ethical hurdles. Some view it may not be right to tamper with life and that scientists cannot play the role of God for example. Nevertheless, the CRISPER technology has received attention from several investors and many companies have started to commercialize this product. Drug companies could experience a hit as CRISPER could become the go to therapy for treatment rather than the drugs that were previously used. CRISPER also gives scientists a model to study diseases. CRISPER can generate animal models that mimic human diseases to learn more about them and develop new treatments. This technology has extremely high potential and the possibilities are nearly endless.

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