The SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) released its 2018 Policy Brief series, which is the latest addition to its knowledge resources. The series is the product of SEARCA BIC’s collaboration with scientists and experts to enlighten policy-makers on a range of agricultural biotechnology trends and issues.
The five policy briefs highlight and provide deeper insights on various topics including the cost of regulatory delays for genetically modified crops; the need to strengthen support for biotechnology in the Philippines; new plant breeding techniques; consensus of the scientific community on the safety of GMO technology; and an analysis on personal constructs and social discourses on GMOs.
The 2018 Policy Brief series is produced in partnership with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP), Department of Agriculture-Biotechnology Program Office (DA-BPO), Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), and DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR).
Conventional plant breeding using the backcrossing procedure can be time consuming, expensive, and imprecise. In addition to time and cost limitations, it does not allow transfer of genes between species which are genetically distantly related and sexually incompatible.
With the advances in modern technology, new plant breeding techniques have emerged which not only allow transfer of genes from unrelated species to produce transgenics or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but also allow introduction of precise, predictable modifications in an elite genetic background, avoiding the mess and cost associated with sorting tens and thousands of genes mixed up in conventional plant breeding.
In the fourth Policy Brief, Dr. Emil Q. Javier expounds on a novel genetic technique, the CRISPR/Cas9 system which has wide applications in plant and animal breeding as well as in drug development and human gene therapy. CRISPR, which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is a natural immune defense system found in lower forms of organisms like bacteria and has been tweaked to work in higher plants, animals including man as a precise, relatively quick and inexpensive method of genome editing.
A team of scientists from Purdue University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences has used CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology to develop a variety of rice that produces 25-31 percent more grain and would have been virtually impossible to create through traditional breeding methods.