While ethicists debate the applications of blockbuster gene-editing tool Crispr in human healthcare, an inventor of the tool believes it has a more immediate application: improving our food.
"I think in the next five years the most profound thing we'll see in terms of Crispr's effects on people's everyday lives will be in the agricultural sector," Jennifer Doudna, the University of California Berkeley geneticist who unearthed Crispr in early experiments with bacteria in 2012, told Business Insider.
Crispr has dozens of potential uses, from treating diseases like sickle cell to certain inherited forms of blindness. The tool recently made headlines when a scientist in China reportedly used it to edit the DNA of a pair of twin baby girls.
Then there are Crispr's practical applications — the kinds of things we might expect to see in places like grocery stores and farmers' fields within a decade, according to Doudna.
Relatively cheap and easy to use, Crispr is showing up in everything from veggies to lab-grown meat
Crispr's appeal in food is straightforward: it's cheaper and easier than traditional breeding methods, including those that are used to make genetically modified crops (also known as GMOs) currently. It's also much more precise. Where traditional breeding methods hack away at a crop's genome with a dull blade, tools like Crispr slice and reshape with scalpel-like precision.
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