Monday, May 25, 2015


Maybe you've never heard of CRISPR-Cas9. Maybe you never will.

But if you're involved in agriculture, this discovery is going to impact your future.

CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Reports. It's about genetics.

Cas9 is a protein that, when combined with CRISPR, guides the way to a specific gene that a breeder has identified and wants to manipulate.

The breeder might want to silence the gene if it's considered detrimental, or to boost its impact if it's considered beneficial. Or he might want to remove it and replace it with a gene he prefers.

CRISPR can be used for all of these. It's a simply amazing discovery made by a team at the University of California at Berkeley.

Jennifer Doudna, one of the members of that team, followed up by launching Innovative Genomics Inititiative late last year. It's attracting a lot of interest, to say the least.

This is not GMO technology that involves transferring genes from one species to another, as is the case with Roundup-Ready corn and soybeans or Bt corn. This technology uses only genes already within the species.

The potentials range from increasing yields to drought tolerance to disease resistance.

Things are going to get really interesting, and likely in a hurry.