Seed World

How Will CRISPR Affect Your Farm?: An American Seed Webinar

On February 22,  Nat Graham, a postdoctoral associate from the Voytas lab at the University of Minnesota, and Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, head of seeds research at Syngenta, weighed in on the importance of CRISPR and the potential it brings to growers and the seed industry alike.

The two discussed five topics:

What exactly is CRISPR-Cas9?
How is genome editing different from creating GMOs?
Why should a farmer care about CRISPR-Cas9?
What are some of the latest advancements made in agriculture for CRISPR?
Where will the future of plant breeding go with CRISPR-Cas9 capabilities?

Both speakers examined the background of gene editing and how it’s the future of plant breeding. Unlike GMOs, CRISPR allows plant breeders to preciously edit genes. Graham notes that most of CRISPR technologies are used to “turn off” specific genes, but his lab is currently working on how to insert new sequences into DNA with CRISPR.

Graham relates DNA to working with novels. With traditional genome engineering, Graham says it would be like adding a random sentence into the book. Meanwhile, Graham notes that genome editing is more like putting the entire book into a word processor, searching for a sentence and changing it.

Van Lookeren Campagne approached CRISPR from an R&D perspective. He shared that Syngenta has been working on drought tolerance for corn.

“We’ve edited a gene that we’ve found from our designer program,” Van Lookeren Campagne said. “Those plants can perform with less water, about 14 percent less water use.

“Genome editing is just a couple years old, so it will take a couple years before these products hit the market.”

Michiel also shares that CRISPR has a shorter research and development time than conventional breeding and genetic modifications, but depending on CRISPR regulations, the development time might not be shortened.

Both agree – gene editing is the future of agriculture.


Nat Graham
Postdoctoral Associate in Dan Voytas Lab, University of Minnesota

Michiel van Lookeren Campagne
Head of Seeds Research, Syngenta