Tweaking Corn Kernels with CRISPR

Corn — has changed over thousands of years from weedy plants that make ears with less than a dozen kernels to the cobs packed with hundreds of juicy kernels that we see on farms today. Powerful DNA-editing techniques such as CRISPR can speed up that process. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Professor David Jackson and his postdoctoral fellow Lei Liu collaborated with University of Massachusetts Amherst Associate Professor Madelaine Bartlett to use this highly specific technique to tinker with corn kernel numbers. Jackson’s lab is one of the first to apply CRISPR to corn’s very complex genome.

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Source: Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory 

Why does it matter?

It can increase the production of food, in addition it opens path for future DNA edited foods.


You want your “vitAImix” blender to make a blueberry smoothie–using the trending recipe it downloaded–but because everyone else is trying to make the same recipe, your kitchen can’t cheaply source the local, organic, aeroponically farmed berries that you want. The solution: you orchestrate a tweet about a fake food safety scandal involving blueberries, and the price drops. Your fridge places the order.

The long-hyped internet of things is finally manifesting itself, and as more objects come online–from livestock and crops with sensors to kitchen appliances–the food system will become more efficient and more responsive to demands and external forces like a changing climate. As data proliferates, retailers will use machine learning to automatically change prices in real time and respond to predicted future demand. Appliances, in response, will use their own algorithms to try to get consumers the best deal.


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Technologies: Internet of Things, AI, Autonomous Agents


Fourth-graders in 2028 might grow their own cheese for lunch. In a concept called “Lunchabios,” researchers envision a Lunchables-like synthetic biology kit that would be marketed to children. Kids would use a bioreactor to culture cheddar, and then pair it with premade crackers and ham at lunch a few days later. A “Pro-GMO” certification on the package celebrates genetic modification, unlike GMO labeling today.

Lunchbox bioreactors are possible, the researchers say, because the technology is becoming cheap enough to make it accessible for everyone. If companies want to become more transparent about how they produce cultured food, and increase public literacy about synthetic biology, it’s likely that they’ll want to offer more hands-on experiences for consumers to try making that food themselves. It’s also likely that they’ll target children, whether or not parents support the idea.

[2017 Institute for the Future]

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