Genome-edited crops to address climate risks – Explained

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The exemption by the Ministry of the Environment of certain types of crops whose genome has been modified from the biosafety standards for genetically modified (GM) crops and the notification by the Department of Biotechnology of guidelines for the evaluation of safety of these plants are likely to accelerate the development of climate-resistant crop varieties. Sandip Das explains gene editing technologies and their potential.

Genome editing

Genome editing allows the modification of genes belonging to plants, without inserting external genes, as with GM crops. Genome-edited varieties do not possess foreign DNA and cannot be distinguished from crops developed by conventional plant breeding methods or by using natural mutations.

  • In March 2022, the Ministry of the Environment exempted the SDN 1 and SDN 2 genomes from rules 7 to 11 of the Environmental Protection Act
  • Conventional breeding technique takes 8-10 years to develop new crop varieties; genome editing can do it faster
  • Genome editing is used in 25 countries in 40 cultures for which a partial or complete genome sequence is available.

Global developments

Genome editing is used in most crop plants for which a partial or complete genome sequence is available and is applied in about 40 crops in 25 countries. The United States and China are leaders in using this technology to develop crop varieties such as rice, corn, soybeans, canola and tomatoes that are resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses resulting from climate change. climatic.

Impact on the development of national cultures

The Indian Council for Agricultural Research said the technology held great promise and that emphasis should be placed on improving varieties of oilseeds and pulses that were resistant to disease, insects or pests, and tolerant to drought, salinity and thermal stress. Last year, a group of scientists wrote to the PM, to help spread the technology.

Faster crop variety development

The conventional breeding technique takes eight to 10 years to develop agricultural crop varieties, while through genome editing it can be done in two to three years. Experts say the technology promises to reduce reliance on imports of oilseeds and pulses through faster development of varieties resistant to disease, pests and tolerant to drought, salinity and heat.

Relaxation of the rules

Exempting the SDN1 and SDN 2 genomes from Rules 7-11 will help avoid a lengthy approval process through the Genetic Engineering Review Committee for GM crops. SDN1 and SDN 2 genome editing is used in Indian laboratories to breed crops that confer traits such as disease resistance, drought and salinity.

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