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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. 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.
Gene editing’s highly targeted approach can bring about improvements in a single generation of plant, 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, help plants be more resistant to disease, and combat the effects of climate change. 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.