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.