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    Genome Editing

Genome Editing - a precise and fast new breeding method

Genome editing is a new breeding method (NBM) which allows more precise and faster development of crop varieties via targeted mutagenesis.

Genome editing is more precise than traditional breeding methods: by altering the genome directly, it is possible to edit only the targeted traits. At the same time, genome editing can speed up the development of new plant varieties by 20-30% compared to traditional breeding methods.

There are different forms and approaches of genome editing. These are based on programmable enzymes (nucleases) that are used to cut the DNA at specific locations to make targeted and precise deletions, replacements, or insertions to the genome. Although genome editing innovations date back to the 1980s, the method has been in use in plant genome editing only since 2005. The earlier genome editing approaches include Meganucleases, Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFN) and Transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs). Since its first application in plant breeding in 2013, CRISPR/Cas has become the most widely used method, due to its relative simplicity, efficiency, versatility, and speed.

Glossary on genome editing

Genome editing can be used to develop crops with beneficial traits:

Many examples of successful implementation show that genome editing can make a significant contribution to global food security and sustainable agriculture. Pest-or disease-resistant varieties or varieties with higher nutrient or water use efficiency can enable reduction of agricultural inputs, such as inorganic fertilizers, plant protection, and water. Furthermore, crops can be made better adapted to the globally and locally changing climate, and reduced need of agricultural land and inputs will reduce the overall contribution of agriculture to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Genome editing at KWS

At KWS, sustainable agriculture has been the main focus in the application of genome editing methods for our key crops since 2015. Due to the current EU regulatory framework, which effectively bans the use of genome editing in plant breeding, our current main focus is on research. We use genome editing for example in gene identification and validation.

Our future focus in genome editing is in the development of such traits as resistance to fungi, viruses and insects, yield stability, and silage quality.

For example, KWS is one of the nearly 60 companies collaborating in the PILTON research project, managed by the German Federation of Plant Innovation e.V. (GFPi). The aim of this project is to develop multiple fungal tolerances in wheat, and to demonstrate the potential of genome editing in reducing the need for plant protection products.

The PILTON Project
  • About Genome Editing

    Genome editing is a breakthrough technology that offers great potential to accelerate our breeding programs.

    Mei Yu, Research Lead, Genome Editing, KWS
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Further reading

New Breeding Methods: More than just a "test-tube screnario" Download (PDF | 144 kB)
EU-SAGE interactive online database of genome-edited crops Read more

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Stephan Krings
Stephan Krings
Head of Global Marketing and Communications
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