We could possibly Engineer Species that would Aid in the Fight Against Climate Change
One of the inventors of CRISPR claims the method has many more applications that could benefit the future of humanity...
CRISPR gene editing is a new method for engineering genetic code and one inventor claims we could use the same technologies to tackle some of the biggest concerns surrounding climate change and other issues humanity is currently struggling through.
In her interview with MIT Tech Review, Jennifer Doudna said that CRISPR can be used to “enhance” the ability of microbial communities in the soil or water for “carbon capture.” The sci-fi idea is “potentially high impact” but also “farther out,” according to Doudna.
“There’s been a lot of focus on clinical medical uses of CRISPR. However, I suspect that over the next decade, when we think about global impact and impact on daily lives, that’s where the uses in agriculture and even to address climate change will potentially have a much broader impact.”
CRISPR would be used to genetically enhance many plants’ ability to suck up the Co2. The idea has been around for a few years. The Salk Institute of Biological Studies’ Harnessing Plants Initiative is attempting to amplify plants’ root systems. The production of suberin is also one of the key goals behind the studies. Some relative processes could be used to allow living organisms to store more Co2 as well.
CRISPR could also allow plants to become more adaptable to a future that is viewed as climate-disrupted. Scientists at California Berkeley are working towards modifying the genetics of rice to be more resistant to droughts. The work is still in the early stages but is affiliated with the Innovative Genomics Institute founded by Doudna.
“This is all very blue-sky at the present time. First, we want to understand the pieces and how they fit together.”
Jill Banfield, a University of California at Berkeley ecosystem scientist told TIME
CRISPR is an example of technology that is way before its time and the development is proving extremely versatile. Scientists are excited most of all for its clinical applications but some see the future in providing potentially groundbreaking effects on the global food chain and our efforts to tackle a growing climate crisis.