US companies announce plans for gene-edited strawberries

BOISE - An Idaho company has reached an agreement to help a California-based plant breeding firm grow strawberries. They claim that the plants will keep fresher for longer periods of time and last longer.

US companies announce plans for gene-edited strawberries

BOISE - An Idaho company has reached an agreement to help a California-based plant breeding firm grow strawberries. They claim that the plants will keep fresher for longer periods of time and last longer.

Plant Sciences Inc. and J.R. Simplot Company, both privately held companies, stated that they plan to launch the first commercially-available, gene-edited strawberries in a few years.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. strawberry growers made $2.2 billion in 2020. Most of this was in California. The crop was thrown away by consumers 35% of which was due to spoilage. Officials from Simplot and Plant Sciences said that genetically modified strawberries would reduce waste and be available for consumers throughout the year.

The strawberry will have genes that are only from strawberries. This includes desirable traits that have been cultivated over many decades to combine them with gene editing.

Doug Cole, Simplot's director of Marketing and Biotech Affairs, said that it's the same technology used for potatoes. "We have the potential to do that using this technology."

Although there is no evidence to suggest that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are unsafe to consume, some people feel the need for changing the genetic code of food. Simplot's genetically modified potatoes were approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are now available in 40 states, 4,000 supermarkets and 9000 restaurants.

Cole stated that the company provided information to the Agriculture Department proving that gene editing is a natural process. The company doesn't require regulatory approval before strawberries can be brought to market.

Steve Nelson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Plant Sciences Inc. said that the company has created five distinct strawberry breeding populations over the past 35 years. These varieties are able to thrive in different climates and growing areas.

Nelson stated that "they possess complex genomes which contribute to long, complex breeding cycles." To make traditional plant breeding successful, you must look at large numbers of seedlings each year.

This could be made possible by gene editing. Nelson stated that Simplot's goal is to increase strawberry horticultural performance, as well as pest and disease resistance and tolerance.

He stated that gene-edited strawberries could be a good option for growers who can invest $35,000 to plant strawberries and $35,000 to harvest them.

Simplot is a multinational agribusiness firm headquartered in Boise (Idaho). In 2018, Simplot acquired gene editing license rights through an agreement with Corteva Agriscience, the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University. These institutions are the developers of the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9. Simplot was the first company to be granted such a license.

This technology allows scientists to modify the genomes of living organisms in a precise manner and can be used to improve plant food quality and production. It can be compared to editing a document with a search-and replace function.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a gene editing technology. The first part of the acronym stands for "clustered regularly interrupted short palindromic repetitions." Scientists say the technology saves years and allows them to develop new varieties that are as safe and secure as the ones they have previously developed.

Craig Richael is Simplot's director of research and developmental. He said that the strawberry genetic code was mapped but that it wasn't clear which traits are linked to each part of the code. He stated that the company is using parts of the code known to raise genetically modified strawberries in a Simplot greenhouse.

Plant Sciences Inc. is based in Watsonville, California. It and its affiliates own proprietary rights to more than 50 strawberry varieties. The company supplies plants for growers in over 50 countries.

Simplot and Plant Sciences will earn money selling genetically modified strawberry plants. Growers pay a royalties for the right to grow and sell the strawberries. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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