An exploration of the potential contribution of genetic modification and genome editing to the development of abiotic stress-tolerant crops as compared to conventional breeding
COGEM has commissioned a research project to obtain insight in the possibilities that gene-editing may offer for the development of abiotic stress tolerant crops. Genetically modified abiotic stress tolerant crops were also included in the research project. The project was carried out by Wageningen University & Research and Wageningen Food Safety Research.
The results indicate that most of the effort is put into obtaining drought tolerant crops, followed by crops tolerant to salinity or heat. Worldwide there are a few genetically modified abiotic stress tolerant crops that have been authorised for cultivation. Several genetically modified abiotic stress tolerant crops have been tested in the field.
There are only a few examples of gene edited abiotic stress tolerant crops. Results from extensive field testing with these gene edited crops have not been published yet.
According to the researchers abiotic stress tolerant crops could be developed faster and more efficient using gene editing. With gene editing gene expression may be changed in a more subtle way, which might allow the development of crops that only express the genes which confer abiotic stress tolerance under stressful conditions. In addition, gene editing may be used to change several genes simultaneously, which may allow signaling routes that play a role in abiotic stress tolerance to be altered in a more balanced way thereby reducing the occurrence of unwanted negative side effects.