Tag Archives: Crispr

Extra Credit #3- Center for Food Integrity ‘Gene Editing’ – Reflection

On October 9th, after a class discussing precision agriculture technology and data management, we were asked to do a reading from November 2018 on the Center for Food Integrity‘s ‘Gene Editing, Engage in the Conversation’ about speaking to opponents of gene-editing – namely the pre-2013 Mark LYNAS” of the world, anti-GMO supporter.

In the article, it is explained that gene-editing is the key to producing, ‘healthier, more affordable, and abundant food with less land and water-use’ and that consumers are, ‘inherently curious’ about the source of their food and how it’s produced.  It is the job of ‘Ag-vocates’ to explain biotech to those who are curious or misinformed.  It is helpful to provide tangible examples, and real-world visuals and anecdotes to aid in communication.

First, it is helpful to explain what gene-editing is, which is ,’the precise, intentional, and beneficial change of the genetic material of plants and animals used in food production for additional health, nutrition, and environmental benefits.’ Many consumers don’t believe plants even have DNA or contain genes.

When presenting knowledge about the gene-editing technique CRISPr to those consumers, finding experts whose knowledge is easily digestible is key.

Secondly, explain how gene-editing is beneficial to human health, i.e., use common ailments like cancers (leukemia, sickle cell, lung cancer) to frame gene-editing in a positive light.

Third, talk about how gene-editing has evolved with time. The process of cross-breeding plants with trial-and-error is a lengthy procedure that can take decades, while targeted editing is much quicker.

Fourth, find benefits that align with public desires.  Honing in on what consumers want, be it improved animal welfare or protecting the environment can be the key to swaying dissenters to the side of biotech.

Two analogies used to explain gene-editing are, ‘The Blueprint’ and, ‘the Encyclopedia’ to explain how making small aesthetic changes to a house does not make it structurally unsound or uninhabitable and can make it increasingly easy to find where the right resources are located, respectively.

Ultimately values, and not facts, are typically what sway both hearts and minds.

Finally, the article ends with a helpful glossary of terms and online resources, as well as the relatively recently established in 2016, ‘Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture‘. The Coalition is a collection of various entities from different fields who have shared values about gene-editing.


Gene Editing : CRISPR-Cas9 System


Gene editing hand is inserting a sequence of DNA.


CRISPR-Cas9 is a genome-editing tool.  It is faster, cheaper and more accurate than previous techniques of editing DNA and has a wide range of potential applications. CRISPR-Cas9 is a unique technology that enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA  sequence. The CRISPR-Cas9 system consists of two key molecules that introduce a mutation into the DNA. These are an enzyme and a piece of RNA.  The enzyme is Cas9, which acts as a pair of ‘molecular scissors’ that can cut the two strands of DNA at a specific location in the genome so that bits of DNA can then be added or removed.  The piece of RNA is called guide RNA (gRNA). The pre-designed RNA sequence is located within a longer RNA scaffold. The scaffold part will then bind to DNA and the pre-designed sequence will then ‘guide’ Cas9 to the right part of the genome. This makes sure that the Cas9 enzyme cuts at the right point in the genome. The Cas9 follows the guide RNA to the same location in the DNA sequence of the other strand and makes a cut across both. The cell will then recognize that the DNA is damaged and try to repair it. For a long time, geneticists used chemicals or radiation to cause mutations. However, this method was ineffective because there was no control as to where in the genome the mutation would occur. Gene targeting was another method, introduce changes in specific places in the genome, by removing or adding either whole genes or single bases. Traditional gene targeting has been very valuable for studying genes and genetics, but it takes a long time to create a mutation and is fairly expensive.


CRISPR and Vertex were preparing to test the ability of a new gene-editing technology, CRISPR/Cas9, in cutting out and replacing disease-causing snippets of DNA when the FDA placed it on hold but now has uplifted the hold. The trial is now scheduled to start by the end of 2018. This tool could be used in fighting cancer, extracting HIV, eliminating malaria, protecting plants, and creating biofuel.


CRISPR/Cas9 Technologies

The world is facing a massive dilemma. In order to feed the massive predicted population of 2050, agricultural output will need to increase by 70%. Scientists are addressing this issue through genetic modification technologies.

The CRISPR/Cas9 technology is a method for genetic modification that is currently being utilized. This system is modeled after a naturally occurring process in bacteria. In simple terms, this technique involves synthesizing a certain specific RNA strand that will bind to the targeted DNA section. This RNA serves as an indication for a certain enzyme, the Cas9 enzyme, to come along and cut off this part of the DNA strand. This loose DNA is then transferred to different organisms involved in the modification.

This technology is growing in popularity because it is relatively inexpensive to do. By the year 2025, Citi GPS predicts that CRISPR will be a $10 billion market. What is more important is that CRISPR allows scientists to create higher yielding and more nutritious crops, which is extremely crucial to feeding the global population.





Fifer’s Orchard

On Saturday, October 6th, our class traveled down to Fifer’s Orchard in Camden, DE, for a behind-the-scenes tour of the operation. Fifer’s is a multidimensional business, so we were very fortunate that we had the chance to meet with two of the Fifer’s brothers in spite of their undoubtedly busy schedules.

On the farm they grow a wide variety of crops, including notably sweet corn, pumpkins, peaches, and asparagus. A large variety of crops involves a variety of management practices. Echoing this point, the family uses basically every type of irrigation system from trickle to hard hose irrigation. Beyond production, the farm utilizes a wide variety of markets. They have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and an on property market. They are also involved in farmer’s markets throughout all of Delmarva.

Family-run agribusinesses often have many unique challenges and advantages. However after seeing how this family manages production, finances, weather, and regulations, it is clear that Fifer’s Orchards is an extremely impressive operation.

CRISPR/Cas9 System

CRISPR-Cas 9 is a system that enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of a genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA sequence. Cas9 is a protein that is programmed by small RNAs to cleave DNA at the DNA strand where a scientist wants it to cut. The Cas9 is complexed with both a crRNA and a separate trans-activating crRNA in order to achieve the site-specific DNA recognition and cleavage. From this scientist can change the genes in the genome of a cell by introducing new genes into the sequence. CRISPR-Cas9 was discovered in adaptive immunity in select bacteria and archaea that enabled the organisms to respond to and eliminate invading genetic material.

This system or technology is better than other biotechnology since it is more accurate and is less likely to result in an error. The reason this is more accurate is it targets the specific spot in the sequence where the new genes need to be added. This is different than the other method of using chemicals or radiation to cause mutations. By using chemicals or radiation you were affecting the entire genome and could get a mutation you didn’t want since it was up to chance. Currently the CRISPR-Cas9 system is the fastest, cheapest and most reliable system for editing genes.

For more information on this you can go to https://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-crispr-cas9 which simplifies the process. For a more in-depth look into it you can go to https://www.neb.com/tools-and-resources/feature-articles/crispr-cas9-and-targeted-genome-editing-a-new-era-in-molecular-biology which goes into the biology of it and explains all the types of RNA that are used in the system.

CRISPR/Cas9 System

CRISPR-Cas9 allows geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering sections of a DNA sequence. Cas9 is an enzyme that cuts the DNA strand where the scientist wants it cut. There is a also guide RNA that guides Cas9 to the part of the DNA being cut. The DNA realizes that is damaged and tries to repair it but this is where the scientist comes in and adds in or removes the gene in question. CRISPR/Cas9 was discovered in bacteria that use it to fend off viruses.

This technology is easier than some other biotechnology and more accurate. For example, one way to change a genome is by radiation causing mutations. Radiation is not controlled so many genes could be mutated and it could be genes you didn’t want mutated. With CRISPR/Cas9, you can pinpoint exactly which gene you want mutated and CRISPR/Cas9 will directly mutate that gene without disturbing the rest of the genome. Another method is gene targeting but that is much more expensive than CRISPR/Cas9. As of right now, it is considered the fastest, cheapest, and most reliable way to gene edit.