Potato plants resistant to blight are one of the game-changing breakthroughs in Europe for gene editing. The UK has already given the go-ahead for gene editing, and several other countries have adopted it or are considering the use of gene editing. They may soon be joined by the EU, with the European Commission expected to propose deregulation of certain gene editing techniques.
One of the exciting possibilities for farmers has been revealed after Dutch researcher Daniel Moñino-López successfully worked with CRISPR/Cas gene editing technology to breed potato crops in which pesticides to control late blight disease can be drastically reduced.
This is a major scientific breakthrough because potato is the third most important food crop in the world, after rice and wheat, in terms of human consumption. But the crop remains threatened by blight, a disease which causes between €3 billion and €10 globally of yield loss and management costs, each year.
Moñino-López, at Wageningen University & Research, successfully introduced resistance genes from wild relatives of potatoes into new modern high-yielding potato varieties. This would normally take decades to achieve with conventional crop breeding methods. But CRISPR/Cas technology makes the breeding of new, improved varieties faster and more precise.