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Our Expert Voices conversation on food security.

Three developments are dramatically changing the process of crop improvement:

  1. There's been a phenomenal increase in speed and decrease in cost of DNA sequencing.
  2. Targeted editing of one or a limited number of specific genes can be used to improve traits without otherwise altering the genome.
  3. DNA sequence information from across the entire genome is being used to dramatically speed the pace of plant breeding.

Agriculture and global food security will benefit most from these new technologies under the following scenarios:

  • They are applied with highest priority to the 3 major food crops of the world — maize, wheat, and rice — by both public and private sector efforts
  • Relatively fast and simple gene editing can be adapted to address traits such as disease resistance or micronutrient deficiencies that are most important to the developing world — and not economically attractive as targets for the private sector.
  • A globally-accepted, science-based regulatory system should be adopted that facilitates, rather than hinders, safe use of such new technologies

Bottom line: We have the tools to improve crops but also need wise management of water resources and soil fertility, along with appropriately optimizing farm sizes, land tenure, and access to markets. These will be just as important as advances in crop improvement.

Other voices in the conversation:

Pamela Ronald, plant geneticist, UC Davis, Focus on results new technologies bring

Henk Hobbelink, agronomist, GRAIN, Support small farmers

Eric Schulze, molecular biologist, Memphis Meats, Science can't be at the expense of culture

Go deeper

Updated 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low — Majority back vaccine proof requirements for travel, schools and work — The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant.
  2. Politics: Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — Americans' return to the skies could benefit smaller airlines.
  5. World: Amazon postpones Prime Day sales in India and Canada over coronavirus surge — Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell — True COVID-19 death toll is double the official numbers, study finds.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Derek Chauvin, 3 former officers indicted on federal civil rights charges

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

A federal grand jury Friday has indicted Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis officers for civil rights violations related to the death of George Floyd.

Why it matters: The new charges mean the officers could face another high-profile criminal trial following a yearlong racial reckoning across the nation.

U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy added a mere 266,000 jobs last month. Forecasters had floated gains close to 1 million, making this the biggest miss, relative to expectations, in decades.

Why it matters: It's a major setback for the hopes of a speedy labor-market recovery alongside America's great reopening.

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