In recent years there has been a myriad of controversy over the process that results in a Genetically Modified Organism, or GMO as we have come to know them. Gene editing is not in any way, shape or form similar to genetically modifying an organism. It is a totally different process, without the ethical concerns of GMOs. Indeed, there are advantages in agriculture, so it is important to understand what gene editing is before looking at how it benefits plants and animals.

Let’s Start with the Difference

Here is where you will understand just how very different the two processes are. When creating GMOs, scientists introduce strands of DNA that are foreign to the gene. This is where the ethical concerns come in. They are modified with new DNA, creating a new species if you will. On the other hand, gene editing simply moves, adds or deletesstrands of DNA, without introducing anything foreign.They work with the very same DNA that comprises the genes they are editing.

Simply put, gene editing focuses on what makes genes strong and healthyin an effort to mitigate that portion of a gene that makes it weak or subject to disease. Much of the research from scientists at laboratories like Hera BioLabs is looking at gene editing in hopes of finding a cure for cancer. They only work with what is there without adding anything foreign to thegene. That is the very real and ultra-important difference.

What Scientists Are Looking forin Agriculture

The advantages scientists are looking for in agriculture are much the same as those being sought in those controversial GMOs. They are seeking ways to grow stronger, more resilient crops. Under careful scientific processes and literally years of research, they seek to determine exactly how the gene’s DNA makes a plant resilient in all kinds of weather, such as droughts.

Gene editing seeks ways to increase yields in crops in smaller parcels of land. For example, by doubling the number of branches on a tomato plant, they can potentially double the yield. With so much concern over global warming in the coming years, gene editing to make plants more resilient in adverse weather patterns will play a huge role in growing sufficient food crops to feed an ever-growing population. Then there is disease-resistance in both plants and animals. Growing stronger and healthier plants and livestock is a must, especially with all the climatic changes ahead.

A More Natural Approach

The aspect of GMOs that had so many people up in arms is in manipulating genes by adding foreign DNA. This is not the case with gene editing, and as a result, it is a much more natural approach to healthier animals and stronger, more resilient plants. Science is only working with that which is naturally there. Think of it like moving furniture out of the way in your home so you don’t trip over it and break a leg. It’s that sort of concept in gene editing. Scientists are simply seeking to move it around, edit the sequence, if you will. From growing healthier plants and animals to finding natural ways to cure cancer, gene editing holds great promise.

Image credit: ThisisEngineering RAEng via unsplash

About The Author

Avatar photo