Genome Editing and the Future of Food

CHAP Research Associate for New Innovations, Dr Jemma Taylor, attended the Genome Editing and the Future of Food meeting on 1st December 2020.

The meeting gathered a wide range of people from academia, industry, government and beyond to explore together the opportunities and challenges that are presented when considering genetic modification and gene editing. With the government’s imminent consultation on this issue, it is a well timed and valuable event to hold.

The day began with several talks overviewing the technology, particularly that of the precision ‘molecular scissors’ known as CRISPR and how it has been applied in different systems to date. From the plant world, nutritional enhancements to crops were discussed and how this can benefit both human food and animal feed. From animal science, the use of gene editing (GE) techniques to increase resistance in pigs to the problematic disease Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome (PRRS) was shared. There was also an update on developments in using GE in algae and the adaptations needed in the technology for it to be applied successfully.

The meeting then split into discussion sessions where the current and short-term future applications of the technology were considered, across the biosciences and in academia and industry. Many interesting ideas and current projects were shared, along with some of the barriers and challenges faced, particularly in the UK and Europe. Discussions also speculated about how the technology could be applied over the next 30 years.

To finish, we were brought back to reality with talks around how policy and regulation is handled and what this will look like post-Brexit.  The upcoming government consultation on precision breeding techniques such as GE will be important in determining how we move forwards with this technology and what the future will bring.

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