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Genome editing of crops:  non-GM technology to increase food safety and nutritional quality.
J. GIL-HUMANES (1) (1) Calyxt, New Brighton, MN, U.S.A..

Methods for precise genome editing in plants have progressed remarkably in the last few years, due to the development of new-generation sequence-specific nucleases (SSNs), such as TALEN® and the CRISPR/Cas9 system. These customizable molecular DNA scissors are capable of inducing mutations at given genomic locations. Due to the simplicity of their mechanism for DNA recognition, SSNs can be designed to target virtually any DNA sequence, providing an efficient approach to edit genomes of important crop plants. GMO technology involves integrating foreign DNA into the plant genome (including antibiotic and/or herbicide resistance genes) and thereby expressing novel proteins.  Traits created by GMO technology are usually oriented towards meeting farmer needs (e.g. pest resistance and herbicide resistance).  Consequently, and despite considerable data that they are safe for consumption, GMOs have been perceived negatively by consumers. We believe that gene edited crops will be better accepted by consumers, since the final product does not contain any foreign DNA in the genome.  Rather, only a few nucleotides are normally edited and no new proteins are expressed in the plant. At Calyxt, we utilize TALEN® to edit the genome of some of the most important crops: wheat, soybean, potato, and canola, among others.  The traits we create focus on benefiting the consumers by creating healthier and safer food products. Some of our first gene edited crop varieties, such as high-oleic soybean and the low-acrylamide potato, have been considered as non-regulated articles by the USDA, and they will be available to consumers in the next few years. In my presentation I will describe traits created by genome editing, and I will explain the potential of gene editing technologies to enhance food safety and nutritional quality.

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