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Gene editing is capturing the collective imagination of scientists.
Early research suggests that scientists may one day be able to treat incurable and fatal genetic diseases, modify human immune cells to kill certain types of cancer, and even stop the spread of malaria—a disease which kills nearly half a million people each year. All through a scientific process known as gene editing. The promise gene editing holds to benefit agriculture is just as inspiring. Since 2010, over 11,000 gene editing studies have been published, laying the groundwork for projects in development and others yet to come.
Together with academics, industry leaders, and policy makers, we are continuing to discover agricultural innovations that solve problems for farmers, provide enough food for consumers, and preserve our planet’s natural resources.
Building a better blueprint
Gene editing has the potential to solve real challenges for farmers and the planet, like reducing the need for pesticides and the use of energy, land, and water. In agriculture, this process typically looks to improve a beneficial trait within an organism, or to remove an undesirable trait.
For years, “gene editing” was done through selective breeding in plants. But with gene editing tools like CRISPR, we can now make changes with more precision than ever before. Many changes introduced by gene editing are small modifications and can be similar to mutations that are naturally present by the millions in a plant’s DNA all the time. While small, these changes can have significant impact enabling scientists to:
- Support beneficial traits, such as drought tolerance or improved nutrition
- Deactivate unfavorable traits, such as disease vulnerability
- Break genetic linkages between positive and negative traits, creating plant varieties with the most desired characteristics
These tools have the potential to offer unmatched precision to farmers, allowing them to grow enough food while confidently reducing their use of natural resources. By giving plants a better chance at survival—particularly in regions that struggle with hunger and malnutrition—gene editing can give people a better chance at life.
How is Bayer using Gene Editing?
We are exploring the application of gene editing in the development of seed and microbial products. Bayer’s R&D focus areas for gene editing include improvements to plant architecture (or plant body itself), disease resistance, stress tolerance, and plant growth and development across our row crop portfolio.
Short corn growing next to traditional corn in the Marana, Arizona greenhouse.
One of our most exciting concepts is Short Stature Corn. We are exploring Short Stature Corn through multiple technology approaches including traditional breeding, gene editing and biotechnology. We believe this product concept will be transformative for corn production and are encouraged by the data we are seeing in our trials.
Collaboration: It's in our DNA
Gene editing is one area which exemplifies Bayer’s commitment to open innovation, and the pursuit of beneficial and collaborative partnerships that combine expertise and insights to accelerate beneficial ag solutions. In the gene editing space alone, we've established forward-facing relationships with Pairwise, CoverCress, Joyn Bio, Pivot Bio and multiple tool developers to harness collective expertise and intellectual property for the benefit of farmers and society.