Gene-editing startups to ignite the struggle in the next ‘frankenfood’

  • Gene-editing startups to ignite the struggle in the next ‘frankenfood’
    FarmIreland.t. E.
    Laboratory in suburban Minneapolis, a tiny company that never makes a profit has all the chances to beat the world’s largest agriculture companies in the market with several potential breakthrough in genetic engineering – a crop of “edited” DNA.

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Laboratory in suburban Minneapolis, a tiny company that never makes a profit has all the chances to beat the world’s largest agriculture companies in the market with several potential breakthrough in genetic engineering – a crop of “edited” DNA.

Calyxt Inc., eight years, the firm co-founder Professor of genetics, the genes of the modified soybean plants to produce more healthy oils, using the advanced techniques of editing, not conventional genetic modification.

Seventy-eight farmers planted those soybeans this spring, on 17,000 acres in South Dakota and Minnesota, the crop is expected to be the first genome-edited crops to sell on a commercial basis, beating out Fortune 500 companies.

The giants of the development of seeds, such as Monsanto, Syngenta AG and DowDuPont ink was dominated by genetically modified crops technology, which appeared in 1990-ies. But they are faced with a wider field of competition from startups and other small competitors, because of Gene-edited crops dramatically reduce development costs and the Department of agriculture (USDA) decided not to regulate them.

Relatively unknown companies, including Calyxt, SIBus, and Benson hill Biosystems is already promoting their own gene-editing projects in the race on the big AG of the dominance of qualitatively new technologies.

“This is a very exciting time for such a young company,” said CEO Calyxt Federico Tripodi, who oversees 45 people. “The fact that the company is so small and nimble can accomplish these things took interest in the industry.”

Gene-editing technology involves the allocation of certain genes in a single organism and disorders associated with undesirable properties or to change them to achieve positive changes. Traditional genetic modification, by contrast, involves the transfer of genes from one kind of organism into another, a process that still does not have full acceptance by the consumer.

Editing of the genome, could lead to higher yields of crops with a wide range of useful quality – better tasting tomatoes, low gluten wheat, and apples that don’t turn brown, drought-tolerant, soybean or potato are better suited to cold storage. Advances were also able within ten years to double the global market for seed biotechnology $15 billion, said Nick Anderson, analyst at investment Bank Berenberg.

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The Ministry of agriculture of the United States have made 23 queries about whether the gene-edited crops need regulation, and decided that do not meet the criteria for supervision. That saves developers time and enormous amounts of money compared to traditional genetically modified crops. Of these 23 organisms, only three were developed by major agricultural firms.

Recently, the competitive environment may foster more partnerships and licensing deals between large and small firms and with universities and public research institutions, said the press-Secretary of the Monsanto Camille Lynn Scott. Monsanto – which was recently acquired by the company “Bayer AG” – have invested this year $ 100 million in the steam plant startup to accelerate the development of gene-edited plants.

Mature high fibre content of wheat plants grown in the greenhouse Calyxt in new Brighton, Minnesota, USA. courtesy Calyxt/handout via Reuters.

North Carolina-based Benson hill was founded in 2012 and named after two scientists, mainly in the cultivation technology of grain license to other companies. But he decided to produce their own high-yielding corn due to low development costs, said chief Executive Matt brown.

Calyxt plans to sell oil from its gene-editing soybean in food companies and a dozen genome-edited crops, including with a high content of dietary fiber of wheat and potatoes that stay fresh longer.

The development and marketing of traditional genetically modified crops can easily cost $150 million, which can afford only a few large companies, crisp said. With the editing of the genome that the price may fall by as much as 90 percent, he said.

“We see a huge number of organizations interested in gene-editing,” crisp said, referring to the traditional crops breeding companies, along with technology firms and companies in the food industry. “That speaks to the power of technology and how we are at a turning point for the modernization of the power system.”


Proponents of genetic editing they say, it provides a higher level of accuracy than traditional modifications.

With CRISPR, one popular Type of genome editing technology used by the company syngenta, scientists transfer RNA molecules and the enzyme in plant cells. When RNA is faced with the target DNA inside the cell, it binds with the enzyme creates a gap in the DNA of a cell. Then, cells repair broken DNA in order to violate, or to improve the gene.

Biotech firms, hope that the technology can avoid the label “frankenfood” that critics had pinned on traditional genetically modified crops. But the recognition by regulatory bodies and the public around the world remains uncertain.

The court of justice of the European Union decided on 25 July that the methods of editing the genome, are subject to regulations governing genetically modified crops.

The resolution will allow to restrict editing of the genome in Europe to explore and make it illegal to grow crops. German Association of the chemical industry called the decision “hostile to progress”.

The Minister of agriculture of the United States Sonny Perdue blasted the resolution for the adoption of barriers for innovation and stigmatization gene-editing technology that the EU considers “regressive and outdated” regulations governing genetically modified crops.

The Ministry of agriculture also plans to regulate the editing of the genome in products of animal origin, according to the document provided by the Agency.

The U.S. food and drug administration, however, planning to regulate the editing of the genome of plants and animals, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in June blog. The Agency is developing “innovative and agile” approach to the regulation of the editing of the genome, he wrote that he would strive to ensure its safety for humans and animals, allowing companies to bring useful products to market.

The Ministry of agriculture of the United States, by contrast, chose not to regulate genome-edited culture, as the process typically introduces characteristics that are “indistinguishable” from created using traditional breeding, which will take much more time, Secretary of the Ministry of agriculture of Purdue is spoken in the message of March.

Although there was no broad popular resistance in gene-editing, activists who have long opposed genetically modified crops remain suspicious of any tinkering with DNA. The new machinery increases the risks of creating undesirable changes in food products and ensures tighter regulation, said Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of canadian action network in biotechnology.

What kind of opposition is why agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. conducts gene-edited technology with caution, said Randal Giroux, Vice President of food safety, quality and regulatory.

Cargill announced in February that it would cooperate with the accuracy of biological Sciences for the development of healthy canola oil, but is in agreement storage and transport of gene-edited other companies with grain in the expectation of clarity from regulators – said Fat.

“We really want to see gene editing to develop the market,” said Giroux. “We are watching how consumers take these products and to respond to these products.”


Other major agriculture biotechnology firms are moving more aggressively, hoping to take advantage of lighter regulation of the speed of development.

Genome-edited crops may take five years to go from development to commercialization in the United States, compared with genetically modified crops, which could take 12 years, said Dan Dyer, head of seed development for Syngenta.

The firm is working on better tasting tomatoes that take longer to spoil and hopes to launch the gene-edited harvest in the middle of the 2020-ies, said Jeff Rowe, President of the Syngenta global seeds.

DowDuPont – in a secret place in the Midwest is field tested waxy corn, a variety grown for industrial purposes, which was edited for higher yields. The company plans a commercial launch next spring.

Smaller firms are nipping at the heels of these huge companies, in the race to lead the next generation of genetically modified food on the market, said Robert Wager, Professor of biology at the University of Vancouver island.

“The lack of USDA-regulated status is a huge game-changer,” he said, “for universities and small start-UPS to enter the market”.

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