Gene editing potential for NZ's primary industries

Rural Exchange 07/10/2018

A new discussion paper outlining future potential uses for gene editing in the primary industries has been released.

Removing allergens from milk, making mānuka disease-resistant and preventing wilding pines are among the potential uses explored by the Royal Society of New Zealand, Te Apārangi, if New Zealand chooses to utilise the new gene editing technology.

The paper outlines the relevant considerations, risks and potential benefits for five scenarios of how gene editing could be used for primary production sectors including agriculture, forestry and horticulture.

But it will face scrutiny – the same as genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Dr Tony Conner, science group leader for AgResearch, say there is a “subtle difference” between gene editing and GMO.

“With GMOs, we’re essentially taking a gene – and the gene or DNA can come from any other organism and put into a plant or animal or a fungus or a micro.

“With gene editing, it’s slightly different, similar technologies. But what we can do is go in and target a specific change in the genome so it can actually induce a specific mutation within a genome of a plant, animal or a micro,” Dr Conner told RadioLIVE’s Rural Exchange.

He says there are currently a range of opportunities for gene editing of animals and plants in New Zealand.

Professor Barry Scott, Professor of Molecular Genetics at Massey University and co-chair of the expert panel, says: “Gene editing techniques will allow more targeted and precise genetic changes than what has been possible before in crop and livestock breeding.

“It’s a good time for New Zealanders to consider what gene editing could offer our primary industries and how they’d feel about its use.”

Watch the full interview with Dr Tony Conner above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE with Carter’s Tyre Service. Click here for all the ways to watch and listen.