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New York City is famous for its cuisine, whether you're grabbing a slice of thin-crust pizza from a food truck or splurging on a poached zucchini and squash blossom dish from a Michelin-starred restaurant.

But come September, the city will be privy to the most transformative menu yet—and at the hand of a surprising source, no less: The United Nations.

UN Food Systems Summit 2021

The international governing body is hosting its inaugural Food Systems Summit, which aims to serve up the best recipes for bettering the world's food systems and driving forward the Sustainable Development Goals—a 17-part course to a climate-stable and food-secure future by 2030.

Time is not on our side, though. The Summit's participants will have to get down to peas and carrots, so to speak, on precisely how we can improve our food and agriculture systems to more quickly and effectively meet global challenges.  

This is no easy task, and success will require a collaborative and science-based approach. While there's no silver bullet, agriculture innovations like gene editing are here now, and can provide real, tangible solutions.  

Gene editing is akin to a molecular word processor. The scientific tool is used to identify, snip, and make targeted changes to specific genes in a plant's cells. The resulting crops may yield a host of improvements for our bodies and our planet—ranging from greater nutritional values and reduced natural resource consumption, to extended shelf lives and accelerated breeding cycles.

For instance, think of:

 Rice crops that are effectively "climate change-ready." They can tolerate flash and prolonged flooding, poor soil quality, and high temperatures, which typically cause significant yield loss.

• Tomatoes that are grown in protected, indoor spaces—known as vertical farms—which can guard against extreme weather and produce more crops with reduced need for water, land, and pesticides.

• Wheat varieties that can outperform the growth, hardiness, and nutritional composition of existing crop strains.

Gene-edited crops like these could no doubt revolutionize our physical and environmental health. That's precisely why the Food Systems Summit is so encouraging—it's the first coordinated signal from both government bodies and private organizations that innovation is key to feeding a growing population on a rapidly changing planet. Among these innovations, gene editing could—and should—be a big topic of discussion.

So, stay tuned. This is just the beginning of the "gene revolution" to feed and protect the planet.

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