31 Aug Plant-Engineering: The future of food
Plant editing pushes the boundaries of science to improve aspects most people thought weren’t possible. With science, this field has made it possible to engineer products like artificial legs and design medical systems to better detect diseases ahead of time. However, plant engineers have expanded into the field of food. Through genetic editing, scientists have tinkered with plant DNA to add or remove certain features within them. While genetic editing of plants is nothing new the concept is moving to prove it can be a viable source of nutrition for people.
Genetically modified organisms or GMOs have been stigmatized for years as science-altering food sources that needed to be regulated. However, advancements in bioengineering technology have since been made which made those regulations obsolete. The advanced changes made to this scientific field designed goals to create crops resistant to climate change and a type of corn with more starch that could be used in adhesives. The genetically altered product taking the spotlight right now is soybeans to be specifically soybean oil.
How Are Soybeans Changing the Food Industry?
Soybeans are being made into what is called a healthier oil and served to people. Scientists have altered soybeans to produce less saturated fats and zero trans fats to create a healthy option. This oil is being used in restaurants as salad dressing, frying options, and to make sauces. This genetically edited food is being served to customers as a nutritional healthy alternative to other oils like canola and olive.
Plant editing has created a huge feat in genetic editing plants as they can create a healthy alternative to many foods, relieve stress from farmers that may have crops that can’t survive harsh conditions, or even delete certain chemicals that cause cancer when cooked. Companies like Calyxt, Yield10 Bioscience, and Pairwise have taken an interest in the genetic editing of plants and are working to design wheat with higher fiber, a potato with a decreased gluten count, and herbicide-resistant soy.
What Companies Are Involved in Gene-Editing?
Companies involved in gene-editing methods have a hand in funding projects to produce plant-based foods. Calyxt specializes in plant-based options; founded in 2010 the company believed in using innovative methods to produce healthier and tastier versions of foods. One of the biggest companies in plant-editing food products it has made headway through products like high fiber wheat and high oleic soybean oil. Yield10 Bioscience is a bioscience company driven to develop desirable genetic traits in plants for seed production. This company uses Camelina to produce oils for feedstock and nutrition as well as PHA bioplastics. They’re known for creating an alternative to the overconsumption of fish with a land-based omega-3 fatty acid oil. The pairwise company uses collaboration methods with farms to make rarely known berries more accessible to the public through genetic editing using CRISPR.
What is the Process of Genetic Editing?
Genetic editing of plants is a difficult process. Although there are improvements in technology that make it easier it can still take a long period to create the right traits in plants. The process to alter a plant’s genetic code would require editing genome tools like CRISPR, and trial and error. The process of creating these gene-edited plants starts in a lab where molecules are designed on computer screens. Robots with accurate pipetting abilities then take over with DNA-cutting enzymes known as TALENs. Scientists in sterile labs sort the seeds and place plant cells with embryonic features in Petri dishes filled with agar. The cells are saturated with root and leaf stimulating hormones which give them time to grow. Once they are big enough, they check the specimen to see if the edits were made right. When given the green light the plant is put in a nursery to await further testing and sent to the greenhouse. Calyxt can run multiple tests on their plant specimens to see if they are superior in which they can be harvested for seeds and sold to farms.
A popular and may be considered a necessary tool in the world of bioengineering is CRISPR. CRISPR was created in 2012 as a cheap and easy alternative to more expensive genetic editing routes. This technology is a genome editing tool that stands for clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. This tool can be used in many processes which involve DNA from editing to preventing many diseases. An editing method is a popular tool within the scientific community as they investigate research involving animal and plant DNA.
Does the United States Have Regulations for Gene Editing?
United States regulations believe the practices used to design and cultivate the plants do not violate any law. Regulations state if there is no altering of plants through other organisms that wouldn’t be compatible it is fine. Other companies that choose to go through a more traditional route of gene editing plants are subject to procedures of safety testing and environmental assessments. This sets the standard for a difference in what will one day require the label of bioengineered food and what will not. Some people within the scientific community are debating the issue of the right decision to leave genetic-edited food out of the labeling system.
Plant-based genetically edited foods can become the future of sustainability in the food industry. Regulations may need to be worked out to inform consumers, but scientists could create plants with traits able to withstand weather changes, poisons like herbicides, and increased nutritional benefits. Science has come a long way in providing many different options for families while offering a way to take the stress off farmers to produce more food. Consumers may soon have to rely on bioengineered sources of food as a staple of their diet. Some may find this choice a decision based on personal morals rather than a progressive alternative that can satisfy the norm. People will have to learn to trust in the scientific advantages we have to feed a growing nation that may have outgrown our current food sources.