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Crop Biotech Update

Experts Urge States to Embrace Genome Editing in Addressing Key Challenges in Health and Agriculture

June 10, 2020

Genetics and health experts have endorsed genome editing as among the most transformative technologies of the 21st century with a huge potential to provide solutions to complex challenges in health and agriculture. In a webinar organized by ISAAA AfriCenter on World Environment Day, June 5, 2020, experts from Kenya, Senegal, and Argentina explained the applications of genome editing in health and agriculture.

Genome editing provides advanced biotechnological techniques that enable precise and efficient targeted modification of an organism's genome. This technology presents the scientific community with tools at a relatively low cost for innovation in medicine, agriculture, environment, and industrial biotechnology. The progressive technology also holds immense potential in contributing to building a sustainable bioeconomy.

Experimentally tested between 2005 and 2009, CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing has enabled scientists to make changes to DNA, making distinct changes to target traits. "In crop breeding, genome editing presents breeders with enhanced speed, precision, and efficiency to develop adaptable varieties suited for modern agriculture," stated Steven Runo, Professor of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at Kenyatta University, Kenya. "The technology is also being explored in developing gene therapies to prevent and treat diseases in humans," added Coumba Toure, Professor of Microbiology at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal.

In Argentina, advances in genome editing research promise to improve both crop and animal productivity. "By improving agricultural and consumer interest traits in major food crops, genome editing will contribute to national food security and economic growth," emphasized Martin Lema, Professor of Biotechnology and Biosafety at National University of Quilmes, Argentina.

The webinar attended by 266 individuals from 64 countries closed with recommendations to promoting science, technology, and innovations in addressing intractable societal challenges. The introductory Genome Editing 101 forum will be followed by a series of webinars exploring various aspects of genome editing including applications in industrial production and environmental conservation, policy and regulations, socio-economic impact, and building thriving bioeconomies.

To register for the next webinar, look out for the call on ISAAA AfriCenter's Facebook and Twitter pages.

For more information on ISAAA's Genome Editing webinars, contact Dr. Margaret Karembu at mkarembu@isaaa.org.

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