The Promise of Gene Editing

When I look out on my farm in Georgia, I am amazed at how far we have come in just a few generations and, what’s more, the advances we have made to reduce our environmental footprint. I have seen firsthand how innovation has changed modern farming, helping us grow crops more safely and sustainably. That’s what makes the promise of new technology like gene editing so exciting: it’s an important tool that will help farmers like me address some of society’s greatest challenges, from preventing hunger and disease to better protecting our land and water.

That’s a bold promise for sure. But if we look at how scientists are breeding plants and animals to protect them from disease, to remove allergens, and to prevent spoiling, we see how this innovation can unlock tremendous benefits for us all. Take for example what our citrus growers in Florida are facing with citrus greening, which has already wiped out 75% of the citrus industry there. There’s no way to stop citrus greening once it hits a grove—until now that is. By using a citrus tree’s own DNA to create immunity, scientists can grow root stocks to graft onto live trees to protect them from this devastating disease.

Gene editing can also change the way we care for our animals, by helping to prevent diseases while cutting back the need for antibiotics. By removing a small part of one gene in pigs, scientists can breed them with a natural immunity to a deadly disease known as PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome), all without impacting any other aspect of the pig’s health.

The promise of gene editing doesn’t stop there. From reducing food waste to conserving water, this new technology can help take agriculture to the next phase of sustainability. It’s time for us to share the story of what innovations like gene editing can do, not only to benefit crops, but to achieve our ultimate goal of feeding our families and yours.

Zippy Duvall, President, The American Farm Bureau Federation