Monsanto is back at it again, trying to make the agricultural systems that keep us fed as sustainable and productive as possible. On September 23, the Monsanto closed on a licensing deal with the Broad Institute that allows the agricultural giant the legal rights to use CRISPR-cas in their endeavors to make hardier plants. CRISPR is a tool that allows researchers to “snip” and recombine DNA at specific base pairs, therefore allowing an organism to express a different or additional gene. It is more efficient than its traditional counterpart, classical breeding which can take up valuable time and resources, and is often more reliable than the grafting of plants.
Greenhouses from Monsanto's St Louis research location.
So why do we need Monsanto and their CRISPR crops, anyway? Well, the exponential growth of the global population, the slow decrease of farmable land due to sea level rise and living space, all mixed with a heating world, could easily spell disaster for global food production. One of the most promising methods to feeding the population is using genome editing technology such as CRISPR to shuffle, in a way genes that control important factors of the production - pest resistant chemicals/hormones, drought tolerance, high yield, dehiscence, etc.
And while, Monsanto is not the first (and certainly not the last, with the way things are going), the results are surely highly anticipated.