Farmers are under more pressure than ever to do more with less, while meeting consumer demands for more varieties of affordable, nutritious, convenient and sustainably grown food. At the same time, today’s food production systems face unprecedented environmental pressures – from a changing climate and rapidly evolving pests and diseases – to a global pandemic threatening food security. Producers need every tool available to not only meet the challenges of today, but to ensure they’re prepared for the new and emerging challenges we’ll face in the future. Success will require innovation; and it all starts with the seed.
Plant breeders are and always have been, problem solvers. And today, thanks to innovative tools like gene editing, breeders have the ability to address new and emerging challenges more precisely and efficiently than ever before, and they can do it in years, instead of decades. From fruits and vegetables, to corn and soybeans, gene editing can allow plant breeders to develop more resilient, higher-yielding varieties — which means producing more food on less land, with more efficient use of agricultural inputs, like water, fertilizers and pesticides. That’s good news for farmers, consumers and the environment.
As we all know, climate change poses a very real threat to the future of many of the foods we know and love. With temperatures on the rise, plant breeders are using gene editing to make plants that can not only withstand the impacts of climate change — from drought to rapidly evolving pests—but also can even fight climate change by sequestering more carbon in their roots.
Innovative breeding can also help fight food waste – a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Plant breeders are using gene editing to develop new crop varieties specifically designed to cut the amount of food wasted. By making a small change to a potato’s DNA, for instance, researchers will be able to make it less likely to bruise and brown. The new characteristic could eliminate 1.5 billion pounds of wasted potatoes.
It’s clear that plant breeding innovation holds tremendous promise for the future of our planet, our health and our food. However, in order to realize the full benefits of tools like gene editing, we need clear, consistent, science-based policies around evolving innovation; as well as an open dialogue with consumers about the benefits, and critical role of innovation in the future of agriculture and food. To learn more, visit: innovature.com.
–Andy LaVigne, President and CEO, American Seed Trade Association