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Gene editing is one of many different methods, including cross-breeding and grafting, that scientists can use to create improved varieties of plants and animals. By making targeted changes in DNA, scientists are able to turn a gene’s expression on or off and recreate a gene from within the plant’s family. Thanks to gene editing, plants can become drought-tolerant or pest-resistant and animals can live healthier lives.
Gene editing’s highly targeted approach can bring about improvements in a single generation of plant or animal, while previous breeding methods were far less precise and could take generations to be effective. In recent years, a tool called CRISPR has pushed the potential of gene editing forward by leaps and bounds. Scientists design CRISPR, an enzyme, to attach to a specific DNA sequence and modify it. Using CRISPR, scientists have the ability to improve the nutrition of some vegetables, improve animal welfare and help both plants and animals be more resistant to disease. More beneficial uses are on the horizon as well, including those developed through other gene editing techniques like Zinc Fingers, TALEN, and other methods which similarly use an enzyme to edit genes.