Sep 23, 2020 - Technology

Gene editing plants and animals could help fight climate change

Illustration of harvester cutting a Helix DNA shape into farm land

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Editing the genes of plants and animals could help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and other sectors, according to a report highlighting the possible uses of the technology.

Why it matters: For too long the potential of biotechnology to address climate change has taken a back seat to engineering, chemistry and energy. But new advances in gene editing could make farming more efficient and take carbon out of the atmosphere.

By the numbers: The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a think tank for science and technology policy, concludes in a recent report that gene-editing technologies like CRISPR could lead to a 50% improvement in agricultural productivity by 2050.

Context: The ITIF argues the federal government will need to reduce regulatory burdens on gene-edited products, increase investment in R&D, and provide incentives for the adoption of gene-edited technologies.

The bottom line: Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases, and tools like CRISPR — properly regulated — will likely need to play a part in creating more sustainable plants.

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