Dissecting mechanisms of plant innate immunity to insect pests

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Graduate Office

Abstract

Insect herbivores cause significant losses to crop production either by direct damage or through the transmission of plant pathogens. Remarkably, more than 80% of the insect species are regarded as specialists with less than 10% feeding on plants in more than 3 families. Thus, most plants are resistant to most insect herbivores.

The Hogenhout laboratory has identified virulence proteins (effectors) from insect-transmitted bacteria that modulate plant defenses to insect herbivory. Transgenic plants that produce these effectors become extremely susceptible to insect species. In addition, the transgenic plants are colonized by insect herbivores that normally die on these plants. Thus, the effectors are likely to interfere with plant immune responses that regulate basal plant resistance to the majority of insect species.

The student will investigate the interactions of effectors with specific plant transcription factors that have a potential role in regulating plant innate immunity to insect pests. The student will work with an interdisciplinary team of researchers, and as such, will have the opportunity to develop expertise in plant genetics, plant development and immunity, plant-pathogen and plant-insect interactions, and molecular and biochemical analyses of protein-protein interactions.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1654544 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019 Sylvain Capdevielle
 
Description New phytoplasma effectors that interact with plant transcription factors have been found. Work to better understand specificities of effector-target interactions has progressed and resulted in the publication of our work in PLOS pathogens.
Exploitation Route The outcome of this funding helped the community to better understand how phytoplasma effectors have evolved to interact with key plant targets.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

 
Description Formal research collaboration with Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan 
Organisation Academia Sinica
Department Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology
Country Taiwan, Province of China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of the research question, approaches and methodology. Provided knowledge about the biology of the organisms, collected biological material, extracted DNA and generated raw reads of genome sequence data. Invited groupe leader at Academia Sinica to the BRIGIT consortium meeting of July 2019 in Edinburgh.
Collaborator Contribution Assembled the genome reads into contigs and annotated the genomes. Contributed a talk and exchanged knowlede on Xylella comparative genome analyses with WP2 members of the BRIGIT consortium at the BRIGIT consortium meeting of July 2019 in Edinburgh. Contributed a talk at the BRIGIT satellite meeting before the IS-MPMI meeting of July 2019, Glasgow.
Impact Several co-authored publications. Exchanged information on Xylella genome sequence comparisons that is useful for developing diagnostics protocols in WP2 of the BRIGIT project.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Formal research collaboration with Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman. 
Organisation Sultan Qaboos University
Department Department of Crop Sciences
Country Oman 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provided intellectual input into investigating an important pathogen of lime trees in Oman, and hosted PhD student of Sultan Qaboos University at JIC for 6 months in 2015/2016 and 3 months in 2017.
Collaborator Contribution Provided funding for research conducted by the visiting PhD student and hosted me to visit phytoplasma-infected lime orchards and vegetable farms in Oman.
Impact Co-authored scientific publications.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Formal research collaboration with Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands 
Organisation University of Wageningen
Department Department of Plant Sciences
Country New Zealand 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided knowledge on phytoplasma virulence proteins that interfere with plant development and involved the Wageningen team into a interdisciplinary project proposal that received funding from HFSP.
Collaborator Contribution The Wageningen team provided expertise on plant transcription factors targeted by phytoplasma effectors and helped us with interpretation of the plant developmental phenotypes. They are co-investigators on our HFSP grant.
Impact We received funding for a HFSP research project. We co-published a paper: MacLean et al., 2014. PLoS Biol. 12(4):e1001835. We co-supervise postdoctoral researchers. We hold regular Skype meetings (in average once per 6 months) for the past 3 years.
Start Year 2014
 
Description #MPMI2019Posters 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact We published the Kamoun Lab posters presented at #ICMPMI2019 Congress on Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, Glasgow, July 14-18, on @ZENODO_ORG.

Kudos to all authors for their amazing contributions!

Joe Win, Mauricio Contreras, Benjamin Petre, Tolga O Bozkurt, Martin H Schattat, Jan Sklenar, Sophien Kamoun. (2019). Host-interactor screens of RXLR effectors reveal plant processes manipulated by Phytophthora. Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3351297

Mauricio Contreras, Benjami
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://kamounlab.tumblr.com/post/186817612845/mpmi2019posters-we-published-the-kamoun-lab
 
Description 2Blades: the story behind the scientist 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We sat down with Sophien to find out more about the story behind the scientist:

Could you explain your research in 5 words?
Never bet against the pathogen.

Okay, now in a few more words..
Plants have an immune system, and it's complicated. This drives rapid evolution of pathogens, so we aim to understand the similarities in mechanisms of virulence and adaptation between plant pathogens and the disease-resistance toolkit and regulatory networks that underlie plant immunity.

Could you explain one technique you use regularly?
CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing. We love it, it's totally transformed how we do research. The best way to explain this is that the genome is like a book, consisting of text, and with CRISPR-Cas9 we can modify just a few specific letters in the book. This is the ultimate in precision for genetic modification.

What about your field of research is most exciting to you right now?
The most exciting area to me is how we're finding evolutionary similarities between immune receptors from different plant species, in terms of how they activate immunity. These similarities are both evolutionary and functional.

What keeps you busy when you're not in the lab?
Traveling, walking, movies, food.

What would you be doing if you weren't a scientist?
I would be a scientist - there's no other option! I would be a scientist even if wasn't paid for it!

What's the most enjoyable thing about your job?
The sense of excitement when you discover something new and then sharing that experience with your colleagues.

How has the 2Blades Foundation been beneficial to your work?
2Blades has brought a high degree of professionalism and expertise to The Sainsbury Laboratory in terms of our capacity to interact with industrial partners. We didn't have this before, so it's been a highly synergistic interaction.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://2blades.org/voices/prof-sophien-kamoun/
 
Description Discovery of 'death switch' mechanism in plants may yield stronger crops: Scientists 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Chinese scientists have discovered a possible "death switch" mechanism in plant's immune system that triggers infected cells to self-destruct, thus limiting the spread of the disease and keeping other parts of the plant healthy, official media here reported on Friday. Scientists said the discovery provides clues to cell death control and immunity for plants, and they hope further research can lead to a new generation of disease-resistant crops that use significantly less pesticide and are more environmentally friendly.

The research was done by scientists from Tsinghua University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Genetics and Development Biology.

About 20 years ago, scientists discovered that plants, like animals, have robust immune systems that can protect them from pathogens including viruses, fungi, bacteria and parasites.

Plants also have a unique "lure and catch" immune response to deal with pathogens that have breached their cellular defence, but exactly how this worked remained unknown, Zhou Jianmin, a researcher at the institute and one of the main scientists behind the study was quoted by the state-run China Daily reported.

To probe this mystery, Zhou and his team investigated a protein called AvrAC, which is produced by a bacterial pathogen that causes black rot on cabbage. The bacterium injects AvrAC into plant cells, where it acts as a "biochemical weapon" weakening the plant's immune system.

They discovered that some plants have evolved to carry a resistance protein called ZAR1 that can detect bacterial proteins like AvrAC. These plants use special proteins as "bait" and trick the bacterial protein into attacking them instead. While the bait is being attacked, ZAR1 is activated to form a multiprotein structure called resistosome, Zhou said.

The resistosome inserts itself into the cell's membrane and triggers it to destroy itself along with the invading pathogens, thus protecting other healthy cells, he said.

In addition to discovering this defence mechanism, Zhou and his associates from the Tsinghua University created structural models of the resistosome from their research. This allows other scientists to examine its composition and functions more closely.

"The 'death switch' is usually harmless to the plant because it only affects diseased cells, which are a tiny portion of the entire plant," Zhou said.

"Understanding and taking advantage of this mechanism can help us create new disease-resistant crops that rely on their own immune system to fend off pathogens and thus greatly reduce the need of pesticide, which is good for the environment," he said.

Sophien Kamoun, a plant pathologist at the Sainsbury Laboratory in the United Kingdom, said in a video interview that the recent discovery is important because it shows what resistosome looks like for the first time and it proposes a "totally new model" for plant pathology and immunity.

The discovery is a huge step toward the "dream of designing new resistant genes from scratch. And once we know how the system works, we can harness it for the benefit of agriculture," he was quoted by the Daily as saying.

Kang Zhensheng, a professor of plant pathologist at Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University in Yangling, Shaanxi province, called the discovery a "milestone" that will "lead the fields of plant pathology and immunity for the foreseeable future".

Zhou Xueping, the director of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences' Institute of Plant Protection, said Chinese agriculture constantly faces serious threats from diseases and pests, and a good solution to these problems is to boost the crops' own immunity.

"Once we have a better understanding of the procedure, we might be able to create some intricate genetic designs that allow precise deterrence against diseases and pests, while ensuring crop yield," he said adding further research may lead to a new generation of disease-resistant crops.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.newsnation.in/science/news/discovery-of-death-switch-mechanism-in-plants-may-yield-stron...
 
Description Everything you wanted to know about research integrity but never dared to ask 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Sophien Kamoun's talk to the Norwich research Park PhD student. May 7, 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.slideshare.net/SophienKamoun/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-research-integrity-but-...
 
Description FIRST INVITED SEMINAR SERIES 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact FIRST INVITED SEMINAR SERIES

Kiki Kots, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
"Shining a light on oomcyete biology; live cell imaging of the Phytophthora cytoskeleton"
Monday November 11, 2019

Huang Tan, Shanghai Center for Plant Stress Biology, China
"Study the role of pectin in pathogen associated molecular pattern pattern (PAMP)-triggered inhibition of growth/immunity"
Monday October 14, 2019

Chuyun Gao, Nanjing Agricultural University, China
"NLR immune receptor Rpi-vnt1 provides light-dependent resistance against Irish famine pathogen by guarding chloroplast protein GLYK"
Thursday September 17, 2019

Alexandre Leary, Imperial College London
"A plant RabGAP negatively regulates autophagy and immunity to the Irish potato famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans"
Tuesday August 7, 2018

Soichiro Asuke, Kobe University, Japan
"Elucidating the genetic mechanism of host parasitic specialization of Pyricularia oryzae to wheat"
Tuesday June 5, 2018

Michael Schon, Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology, Austria
"Utilizing RNA ends for tissue-specific transcriptome assembly and degradome analysis"
Friday February 16, 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://kamounlab.tumblr.com/post/188924706750/first-invited-seminar-series-fiss
 
Description Fighting the fungi that destroy wheat 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Scientists in UK, Bangladesh join hands in applying genome editing to develop a novel variety capable of withstanding the fearsome fungal disease - wheat blast


An international scientific collaboration is employing genome editing techniques to develop novel blast resistant wheat to save the second most important food crop in South Asia from a future devastation.

The move comes at a time when authorities in Bangladesh and in the Indian state of West Bengal are pursuing 'wheat holiday' policy - restricting wheat cultivation for a stipulated time in targeted areas - in a desperate attempt to curb the spread of deadly wheat blast disease.

This fungal disease has long been confined largely within the wheat growing regions of South America. But in 2016, it struck wheat fields of Bangladesh, in its first outbreak in Asia, causing colossal crop damage and sending alerts in bordering regions of India.

Scientists from United Kingdom and Bangladesh, involved in the process of developing blast resistant wheat through genome editing, told Dhaka Tribune that they have already identified the wheat gene where they are going to apply 'molecular scissors' and do the editing, thereby effectively driving away the fungi responsible for the blast in wheat fields.

"Once we're done with the task in our laboratory (in UK), hopefully by the end of this year we'll be sending the edited version to Bangladesh for Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University (BSMRAU) lab to do the necessary probing prior going for field test," Prof Dr Sophien Kamoun, Group Leader, Sophien Kamoun Group at the UK's The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) told this correspondent on Tuesday.

Tunisian-born Dr Sophien, a British Royal Society Fellow, made the science jargons easy for a layman's understanding as he explained, "The fungi hold a key and wheat has a lock and every time fungi get favourable weather they apply the key to unlock wheat thereby feasting on the plant. What essentially we'll do is fortify the lock system failing fungi's key in opening it."

Dr Sophien, a former plant pathology professor of Ohio State University, had joined hands with his TSL colleague Prof Nicholas J Talbot and other co-scientists in discovering the genome sequence of pathogen responsible for wheat blast when it first struck in Asia invading eight major wheat growing districts in Bangladesh in 2016.

Prof Dr Tofazzal Islam, who teaches biotechnology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University, Gazipur, joined hands with them and together they launched an open source wheat blast website, creating a forum for world's scientific fraternity to look into a disease that the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) fearedwas a potential threat to South Asia's future food security.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/agriculture/2019/03/02/fighting-the-fungi-that-destroy-wheat
 
Description Growing the Future-a UK Plant Sciences Federation and a Royal Society of Biology report featuring Innovations in #PlantHealth by TSL scientists 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Growing the Future-a UK Plant Sciences Federation and a Royal Society of Biology report has featured Innovations in #PlantHealth by TSL scientists and the broader oomycete and gene editing communities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://kamounlab.tumblr.com/post/182471762520/growing-the-futurea-uk-plant-sciences
 
Description Hello kids, I'm a biologist! 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact My presentation to the 9-10 year old children of the British International School of Tunis. March 21, 2019.

Here you can find notes, acknowledgements and links to the videos:

Slide 1. The action shot is from this interview with CropLife International. More on my background can be found on the Wikipedia English and French pages, and these interviews "Stranger in a strange land: the experiences of immigrant researchers" and ISMPMI Interactions InterViews. For popular science writing, check the PlantVillage article "https://medium.com/@plantvillage/keeping-up-with-the-plant-destroyers-9c0047899683".

Slide 3. The Australian outback ~1994 with our clunky Ford Falcon. With @SaskiaHogenhout.

Slide 4. You go there to chase insects and instead insects start chasing you #fieldworkfail #Australia

Slide 5. This Scanning Electron Microscopy shot of a tiger beetle head is courtesy of Charles R. Krause who captured it in 1982 on a Hitachi S-500 SEM.

Slide 6. Rivacindela eburneola, Cicindelidae, Coleoptera. I took this shot in 1994 at Lake Gilmore, Western Australia.

Slide 7. The fastest running insect in the world. BBC Earth.

Slide 8. Ed Yong's National geographic piece on The Predator That Becomes Blind When It Runs After Prey.

Slide 9. Cornell University Daniel Zurek and Cole Gilbert study on how tiger beetles use their antennae to sense obstacles at high speed.

Slide 10. What's in this picture? #PlantBlindness

Slide 11. The time-lapse video of potato plants infected by the Irish famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans was produced by Remco Stam.

Slide 12. I received the image of the potato farmer from Dr. Tarlochan Thind, Punjab Agricultural University. He is quoted in this story about potato late blight in India.

Slide 13. Different varieties of potato are either destroyed by the blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans or fully resistant (immune). The photo is courtesy of Vivianne Vleeshouwers at Wageningen University.

Slide 14. This stunning animation of the bacterium Xanthomonas infecting tomato plants was produced by students at Halle University working with Prof. Ulla Bonas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://kamounlab.tumblr.com/post/183672043215/hello-kids-im-a-biologist
 
Description How to select a PhD lab? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact I regularly get this question from predocs. How do I select a PhD lab? How do I decide on a good supervisor? Should I select a lab based on a project? Below is a hodgepodge of the answers I generally give.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://zenodo.org/record/3531916#.Xl6WJS2cbDY
 
Description Meeting with HE Mr. Slim Khalbous Ministre de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche Scientifique of Tunisia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A busy week in Tunisia. A great honour to receive the Presidential Research Award from HE Mr. Slim Khalbous Ministre de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche Scientifique. Also, present at the ceremony were Mme Samia Charfi Directrice Générale de la Recherche Scientifique et M. Abdelmajid Ben Amara Directeur Général de l'Enseignement Supérieur.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://kamounlab.tumblr.com/post/183671401535/a-busy-week-in-tunisia-a-great-honour-to-receive
 
Description Overcoming plant blindness in science, education, and society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Plants are amazing organisms. They make up around 80% of all biomass on Earth, play important roles in almost all ecosystems, and support humans and other animals by providing shelter, oxygen, and food. Despite this, many people have a tendency to overlook plants, a phenomenon known as "plant blindness." Here, we explore the reasons behind plant blindness, discuss why some people are relatively unaffected by it, and promote education around plant science to overcome this phenomenon and raise awareness of the importance of plants in the wider community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ppp3.51
 
Description Ten things we learned in 2010-2019 (aside from everything else) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This last decade has been such an exhilarating period of exploration and discovery for me, my team and my collaborators that I just can't resist the urge to write this post. The decade took us through unexpected research paths that I would have never imagined ten years ago. As I'm drafting these words during my holidays break in Sri Lanka-in between tasting the local milk rice curries and soaking the soft Indian ocean December sunshine-I'm reflecting on the local proverb above and I'm using it as my lame excuse to offer you yet another list of decadal achievements.

Please note that this is my personal highly biased perspective on ten things we have learned in 2010-2019. This list is by no means meant to be comprehensive review of advances in our research field but rather a reflection of my own personal take on the scientific topics we investigate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://kamounlab.tumblr.com/post/190367273015/ten-things-we-learned-in-2010-2019-aside-from
 
Description TheMetaNews: Interview-<
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Chercheur en pathologie des plantes au Royaume-Uni, Sophien Kamouns'est tout récemment fait pirater son identité par une revue prédatrice.

Comment vous êtes-vous rendu compte du piratage de votre identité ?
J'ai reçu un email du Research journal of plant pathology, qui a attiré mon attention car il me remerciait d'avoir "reviewé" des articles pour leur compte. Il y avait le mot de passe de "mon" profil en bas du mail, j'ai donc pu y accéder et réaliser que j'étais censé avoir rendu quatre rapports (très mauvais d'ailleurs), alors que je n'ai jamais travaillé pour cette revue.

Avez-vous contacté les éditeurs de la revue pour avoir des explications ?
J'en doutais au départ mais il s'agit de vraies personnes ! Un chercheur aux Etats-Unis, un autre en Chine, les deux assez reconnus. J'en ai parlé à l'administration de mon institut et nous avons décidé que je ne les contacterai pas personnellement, mais d'agir de manière formelle. Une lettre signée de mon institut est en cours de rédaction, à l'attention de la revue, ainsi que des deux éditeurs. C'est également mon employeur qui décidera s'il y a lieu d'engager des poursuites judiciaires.

Quel est le meilleur moyen de lutter contre les revues prédatrices ?
Par la transparence. Je suis pour un système << publish & filter >>, et non l'inverse, où le peer-review se fait sur des plateformes dédiées comme PREreview, après mise en ligne du preprint. Les maisons d'édition historiques ne sont pas forcément un gage de qualité du peer-review même si les chercheurs se cachent souvent derrière le fait qu'un article est publié dans Nature pour ne pas se poser de questions. Cela peut être très dangereux, comme nous montre le cas de l'article liant vaccination et autisme, qui a finalement été retiré mais 18 ans après sa publication.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://sco.lt/5RgfkO
 
Description Video commentary on the structure and activation mechanism of NLR type plant immune receptor ZAR1 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Stunning news from China! Check CCTV13 news report on the resistosome featuring Jijie Chai and Jian-Min Zhouwith a brief cameo by yours truly. This program's audience share was ~2.3% or about 30 million people give or take

More coverage via iPlants WeChat Group, which includes a cool animation by Jian-Min's Lab. Here is also the video interview commissioned by the authors and the commentary by Hiroaki Adachi and Abbas Maqbool.

It's truly cause for celebration. At long last, a structure o
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://kamounlab.tumblr.com/post/184056312400/stunning-news-from-china-check-cctv13-news-report
 
Description Why the future of gene-edited foods is in the balance 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email licensing@ft.com to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found at https://www.ft.com/tour.
https://www.ft.com/content/12b978aa-0544-11e9-bf0f-53b8511afd73

Gene editing is the biggest technical advance in bioscience since the discovery of "recombinant DNA" technology - artificially mixing genetic material - in 1973. That launched the era of genetic engineering and led to the commercialisation of genetically modified (GM) crops in the 1990s. Now gene editing (GE) is for the first time giving researchers a fast, reliable way to make precise changes in specific genes. But its use in farming is in the balance after a European ruling last year equated it with heavily regulated GM.

Publicity around gene - or genome - editing has focused on human applications, and particularly the controversy about gene-edited babies born in China. Yet it also promises to transform agricultural production, for example genetically editing crops to make them resistant to disease or developing faster-growing varieties of livestock. The extent of that transformation will depend on variations in regulation around the world.

Proponents of gene editing hope it can avoid the criticism and regulatory scrutiny that slowed the introduction of GM, because it usually alters existing genes rather than adding foreign DNA to the plant. In the US and Canada, the initial response of authorities has been that gene-edited crops will not fall under the regulatory regime of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but the EU is taking a different view.

Scientists have devised several gene editing tools but the most popular and versatile is Crispr ("clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats", pronounced "crisper"), which entered the world's laboratories six years ago.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.ft.com/content/12b978aa-0544-11e9-bf0f-53b8511afd73