[box type=”default” size=”large”] What may be good for crops may not be good for humans [/box]

Genome Engineering
Genome Engineering

MANILA — Dr. David Baltimore, who won the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1975 for discovering reverse transcriptase, an enzyme that synthesizes DNA from RNA, has called for the crafting of a framework for “open discourse on the use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to manipulate the human genome.”

He shared the prize with Howard M. Temin and Renato Dulbecco, who worked independently on the same issue.

Baltimore was the lead author of the paper “A prudent path forward for genomic engineering and germline gene modification” that appeared in the journal Science on March 19, which cautioned against the dangers of unrestricted, unreviewed work human genetric engineering.

He was joined by the following co-authors: Paul Berg; Michael Botchan; Dana Carroll; R. Alta Charo; George Church; Jacob E. Corn; George Q. Daley; Jennifer A. Doudna; Marsha Fenner; Henry T. Greely; Martin Jinek; G. Steven Martin; Edward Penhoet; Jennifer Puck; Samuel H. Sternberg; Jonathan S. Weissman, and; Keith R. Yamamoto.

For crops at least, the scientific advance makes it possible to eliminate the propensity of crops to develop diseases and attract pests while intensifying their capacity to tolerate drought and yield more under different environmental stresses.

In its 2014 report, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) said “these new techniques allow the cutting of the DNA at a pre-determined location and the precise insertion of the mutation, or single nucleotide changes at an optimal location in the genome for maximum expression.”

With these methods, the development of non-GM crops is in the offing and changes within the crops will be achieved without introducing foreign genetic material. ISAAA global coordinator Dr. Randy Hautea, Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr., former Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) Executive Director Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr. and ISAAA trustee Dr. Paul Teng of Singapore argued that biotech crops are the best option to meet global food needs when the planetary population reaches 9-billion in 2050.