Gene-editing technology, which has been likened to a “search and replace function,” usually modifies an organism’s DNA without introducing foreign genes. Crispr promises to cut development costs while also requiring less government regulation than more established genetic-engineering techniques that require insertion of new genes into a plant’s genetic sequence. Crispr already has been used to develop a mushroom that resists browning as it ages, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has said it won’t regulate the variety, according to Bloomberg.
Monsanto has entered into licensing agreements to use gene-editing technologies developed by companies abroad. DuPont Co. recently established a plant-breeding platform based on Crispr that is focused on corn, with plans to expand to include other crops such as soybeans, rice, wheat and canola. Dow Chemical also has licensed gene-editing tools, and is developing herbicide-tolerant corn and soybeans that can repel insects without pesticides.