Gene editing (or genome editing) refers to a set of new techniques that can alter an organism’s DNA at a specific location in its genome. Techniques can use foreign DNA to make genetic changes, but, unlike previous types of GMOs, they do not always leave foreign DNA in the final organism.
These technologies allow scientists to add specific and desirable characteristics to an organism’s genome, or to increase or suppress those that are already present. Gene editing ignores the longer, less accurate methods used in traditional breeding or in previous generations of genetic engineering.
They are also faster and cheaper than older genetic modification techniques and are regularly used outside of agriculture: for example, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is based on gene editing. CRISPR-Cas9 is the most well-known gene editing technology.
Gene editing makes it easier to ensure that an organism has desirable characteristics than using traditional breeding, explains Loren Rieseberg, professor of botany at the University of British Columbia. This is because traditional breeding gradually refines the desirable genes over several generations and can be accompanied by genes that exhibit less useful characteristics. In contrast, gene editing allows scientists to achieve similar changes in an organism’s genetic code in a single generation.
Get the latest news delivered to your inbox
Follow us on social media networks