The J.R. Simplot Company announced on August 6 that it has executed a joint intellectual property licensing agreement with Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard for foundational CRISPR-Cas9 and related gene-editing tools. The technology provides Simplot with another avenue to bring desirable traits forward in certain fruits and vegetables and advance products to the market in the United States to benefit both farmers and consumers. Simplot provides a line of fresh, frozen and chilled products that include potatoes, avocados and strawberries.
“We’re excited to add CRISPR-Cas9 technology to our platform of tools aimed at providing more sustainable produce for the industry,” said Susan Collinge Ph.D., vice president of Simplot Plant Sciences. “These pioneering tools may enable growers to achieve higher yields on less land resulting in fewer pesticides, water and labour needs while extending the quality of a consumer’s favourite foods.”
Each year, 35 per cent of fresh potatoes worth $1.7 billion is lost because of waste from poor storage or shelf life according to the Journal of Consumer Affairs. Avocados, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables have similar losses and gene-editing technology such as CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tools may be able to reduce that significantly.
Using gene editing technology such as CRISPR-Cas9, bruising and browning of potatoes can be reduced, eliminating some of the 3.6 billion lbs. of potato food waste each year.
Comprehensive intellectual property rights allow entities to apply scientific tools as widely as possible. To enable such access, Corteva Agriscience and Broad Institute have agreed on a joint non-exclusive licensing framework for agricultural use. The license to Simplot represents the first time that Corteva Agriscience and Broad Institute have jointly provided a license of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tools to an agricultural company.
“We applaud Simplot for taking the initiative to broaden their portfolio of food technologies to further enhance sustainability and reduce food waste,” said Neal Gutterson, chief technology officer at Corteva Agriscience. “CRISPR-Cas9 offers farmers and consumers so many great benefits. It’s exciting to see a company with such a strong innovation track record putting CRISPR-Cas9 to work.”
Simplot is one of the largest potato processors in North America and processes a variety of fruits and vegetables around the world. Using different genetic techniques, the company previously commercialized two generations of its Innate-branded line of potato varieties by adapting genes only from wild and cultivated potatoes. The potatoes feature reduced bruising and black spots, reduced natural asparagine and protection from late blight pathogens.
“Our goal is to maximize the scientific impact of CRISPR-Cas9 for improving agriculture, and our joint licensing agreement offers the opportunity to provide much broader access to help researchers reduce food waste, limit pesticides, and improve drought resistance, while promoting safe and ethical uses of groundbreaking technologies,” said Issi Rozen, chief business officer of the Broad Institute.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently issued a statement providing clarification on plants produced through innovative new breeding techniques, which include CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing techniques. Under its biotechnology regulations, USDA does not regulate or have any plans to regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques as long as they are not plant pests or developed using plant pests.
Growers are certainly interested in growing these new varieties because of their better traits, but they need to be able to offer a sellable product to the retailer, which is a big factor currently, according to Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada.
“Most of the public is interested in knowing where food comes from and how it’s made. Any time there’s new technology involved in food production they have questions they want answered.”
He says it’s a matter of having enough time to present the scientific evidence that’s out there now and to get it into the hands of people that are actually buying the product.
On the issue of food waste, MacIsaac says the new potato varieties will greatly reduce waste and the non-browning varieties will outlast more traditional ones but it’s all about educating the consumer.
“I’ve followed their research very closely,” says MacIsaac. “The science is there; it’s now more about getting the acceptance in the consuming public and the retail chains to recognize that.”
Source: H.R. Simplot August 6, 2018 news release