CRISPR Edited Greens: Is It a New Trend?

Technology is getting involved in new food trends. Scientists have been developing superior versions of foods with the help of fortification, precision breeding, genetic modifications, advanced food preservation technologies, and even CRISPR. The CRISPR technology allows producers to edit food genomes without genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Key takeaways:

In this article, we’ll look at newly released CRISPR-edited greens. Read more to learn how CRISPR technology is revolutionizing the food industry.

What is CRISPR?

CRISPR, short for "Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats," is a gene-editing technology. It originated from bacteria. Viruses infect bacterias too. Scientists discovered that bacteria recognize viral DNA and cut them with Cas proteins as a form of defense mechanism.

The CRISPR system consists of two main components:

  • Guide RNA (gRNA). The guide RNA is a synthetic molecule created in the laboratory. It guides Cas protein to bind to the target DNA sequence.
  • Cas protein. CRISPR-associated proteins (Cas) are enzymes responsible for cutting the DNA at the target location.

When these components come together, the guide RNA directs the Cas protein to the target DNA sequence (the DNA that was intended to be modified). Once the Cas protein binds to the target DNA, it creates a double-strand break, which activates the cell's natural DNA repair mechanisms. These repair mechanisms can be harnessed to introduce changes in the DNA sequence, such as gene insertions, deletions, or modifications.

CRISPR-edited greens

A food and agriculture startup called Pairwise developed CRISPR-edited vegetables to make them more palatable. They created a breed of mustard greens (Brassica juncea) that had reduced pungency compared to non-edited mustard greens.

The product’s goal is to increase palatability, thus increasing the consumption of vegetables. According to the CDC, 9 of 10 adults do not meet the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, which are crucial to get fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidant compounds.

This is just an example of CRISPR-edited foods. More and more companies are developing gene-edited foods to increase consumer health and satisfaction. Let's look at the potential of gene-edited foods.

Potential of CRISPR technology in food editing

CRISPR technology has the potential to revolutionize food editing and agriculture by enabling precise genetic modifications in crops and livestock. Here are some ways CRISPR can be used in food editing:

  • Crop improvement. CRISPR can be used to improve crop traits by modifying genes responsible for traits such as yield, disease resistance, nutritional content, and tolerance to environmental conditions.
  • Disease resistance. CRISPR can help develop crops and develop increased resistance to chemicals, diseases, and other environmental irritants. By modifying genes involved in plant defense mechanisms, researchers can create crops that are more resilient and require fewer chemical pesticides or herbicides.
  • Improved nutritional content. Foods’ nutrition composition can be improved by using CRISPR. For example, scientists can modify genes responsible for nutrient synthesis, bioavailability, or allergenicity to develop crops with higher vitamin or mineral content or reduced allergenic properties.
  • Extended shelf life. By targeting genes associated with fruit ripening and decay, CRISPR can potentially extend the shelf life of perishable crops. This could reduce food waste and improve the availability of fresh produce.
  • Flavor and quality enhancement. CRISPR can be employed to modify genes that impact the flavor, texture, and quality of crops.
  • Livestock improvement. CRISPR can also be applied to livestock to introduce desirable traits such as decreasing disease susceptibility and increasing growth rate, fertility, and animal welfare.

Differences between CRISPR and GMO

GMO (genetically modified organism) foods have been on the market since the 1990s. Authorities including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ensured the safety of GMOs for people, animals, and the environment.

GMO plants are created by changing DNA. DNA from other organisms are transferred to the plant in order to bring desired features, which may include increasing crop yield, plant’s natural defense mechanisms, and nutritional content.

CRISPR technology can do all without adding foreign DNA to the foods. CRISPR is used to edit food’s own genome.

Regulations around CRISPR-edited foods

It's important to note that the use of CRISPR in food editing is subject to regulations and public acceptance, and the specific applications may vary across countries or regions.

Several countries, including the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia, established that gene-edited foods are not involved in GMO monitoring and regulations. The reason is that gene-edited crops don't use foreign DNA.

The FDA regulates foods produced by using genome editing and genetic engineering. Gene-edited foods produced using CRISPR technology are held to the same standards as other foods in the United States throughout production, processing, storage, transportation, and sale processes.

Safety assessments and regulatory frameworks should be ensured for the responsible and ethical use of CRISPR technology in food production.



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