A NEBRASKA CORNHUSKER frets as he surveys his drought-stunted crop, a NIGERIAN YAM FARMER digs up shrunken tubers, and a COSTA RICAN COFFE BARON lays off hundreds of workers because a fungus has spoiled his harvest!!!
Such disasters are increasingly common on a planet buffeted by climate change and worldwide commerce, where heat burns crops, soil has been ruined by over-farming and drought, and bugs ride across oceans to feast on defenseless plants. Agronomists have been working on these problems for years, but the rapid population growth of humans makes overcoming these challenges increasingly urgent. If we can’t feed the world, it will eventually feed on us.
The solution, though, appears to be on the way: In 2012, a new tool was invented that revolutionizes how scientists can examine—and manipulate—plant genetic processes.
CRISPR - Cas9 (CLUSTERED REGULARLY INTERSPACED SHORT PALINDROMIC REPEATS) is highly specific, allowing scientists to zero in on a single gene and turn it on or off, remove it or exchange it for a different gene. Early signs suggest this tool will be an F-16 jet fighter compared with the Stone Age spear of grafting, the traditional, painstaking means of breeding a new plant hybrid. Biologists and geneticists are confident it can help them build a second Green Revolution—if we’ll let them.
NEWSWEEK Journalist TOM PARRET reports YOU Are TOTALLY WRONG About GENERICALLY ALTERED FOOD: GMO SCIENTISTS Could SAVE The WORLD From HUNGER, IF WE LET THEM.