Crop Biotech Update

Gene Editing Can Help Preserve Aquatic Gene Heritage -Experts

May 18, 2022

Breeding programs for aquaculture, including salmon, promote food security and economic value. Yet they also pose a threat to genetic diversity. Biotechnology, particularly gene editing, can help create barriers between farmed and wild aquatic animals to help preserve aquatic genetic diversity.

It is predicted that a 15% increase in demand for agricultural products will occur in the next decade and that fish and seafood supply will be produced from aquaculture due to limitations of capturing fish in the wild. While aquaculture can help attain the global population's demand for food, one of its consequences is the interbreeding of domesticated breeds with their wild counterparts, especially in cases where the domesticated fish escape from growing facilities. The resulting offspring usually is not capable of surviving in the wild and lacks genetic diversity to adapt to climate change.

According to experts, gene editing can help create genetic firewalls for farmed animals. An example is the knocking out of the dead-end germ cell-specific gene in the Atlantic salmon using CRISPR-Cas9 which yielded sterile animals that grew normally yet did not produce gametes or sex steroids. Using biotechnology can also help create reproductive barriers which make it possible to establish hybrid incompatibility between farmed and wild aquatic strains by editing or relocating centromeres.

The experts strongly suggest that using gene editing can help create genetic barriers between farmed and wild animals is an effective option for preserving aquatic genetic diversity but needs the support of the conservation community. This can be met by promoting correct information about the technology's benefits, which in turn will help the concept become more acceptable to the public.

Read more from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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