Precision genome engineering and agriculture: opportunities and regulatory challenges

PLoS Biol. 2014 Jun 10;12(6):e1001877. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001877. eCollection 2014 Jun.


Plant agriculture is poised at a technological inflection point. Recent advances in genome engineering make it possible to precisely alter DNA sequences in living cells, providing unprecedented control over a plant's genetic material. Potential future crops derived through genome engineering include those that better withstand pests, that have enhanced nutritional value, and that are able to grow on marginal lands. In many instances, crops with such traits will be created by altering only a few nucleotides among the billions that comprise plant genomes. As such, and with the appropriate regulatory structures in place, crops created through genome engineering might prove to be more acceptable to the public than plants that carry foreign DNA in their genomes. Public perception and the performance of the engineered crop varieties will determine the extent to which this powerful technology contributes towards securing the world's food supply.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Agriculture / methods
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics*
  • Genetic Engineering / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Genome, Plant

Grants and funding

This work has been funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation to DFV (DBI 0923827) and grants to CG from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31271795) and the Ministry of Agriculture of China (2014ZX0801003B). The funders had no role in the decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.