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DuPont Pioneer Unveils Its First Product Developed Through CRISPR-Cas

On April 18, 2016, DuPont Pioneer announced waxy corn hybrids as their first commercial agricultural product developed through the application of CRISPR-Cas enabled advanced breeding technology.

DuPont Pioneer is a world leading developer and supplier of advanced plant genetic, providing high-quality seeds to farmers in well over 90 countries. Based in Johnston, Iowa, they are combining conventional and new technologies, in order to deliver solutions to meet the needs of growing populations whose demand for agricultural seeds and products continue to increase.

“We are applying our 90 years of knowledge of corn biology to develop the next generation of high-quality waxy corn hybrids for the benefit of the entire value chain from growers to processors and end users,” stated Neal Gutterson, Vice President of Research and Development for DuPont Pioneer. Their initial CRISPR-Cas offering will allow them to lay a strong foundation for the success of large volume products in the future.

Globally, Pioneer is a leading supplier of waxy corn hybrids. Waxy corn produces high amylopectin starch content, which essentially gets milled for numerous everyday consumer food and non-food uses. This includes processed foods, adhesives, and high-gloss paper.  

“The next generation of waxy hybrids developed with CRISPR-Cas will represent a step-change in how efficiently we bring elite genetic platforms of high-yielding waxy corn to our customers,” said Gutterson.

On December 14, 2015, Pioneer requested confirmation from the USDA- APHIS’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) in regards to the regulatory status of waxy corn developed using CRISPR-Cas. The USDA has published their response to the initial letter from Pioneer stating, “APHIS has no reason to believe that this CRISPR-Cas waxy corn is a plant pest. Therefore, consistent with previous responses to similar letters of inquiry, APHIS does not consider CRISPR-Cas waxy corn […] to be regulated pursuant to 7 CFR part 340.”

In conjunction with DuPont’s own technology and scientific expertise to advance CRISPR-Cas, Pioneer had announced previously their strategic agreements for research collaborations and IP licenses with Vilnius University and Caribou Biosciences.    

Gutterson said, “Pioneer has a long history of collaboration and broadly advancing science and is open to entering further collaborations which would contribute to developing CRISPR-Cas technology across all crops and geographies for the greater good.”

Having established a CRISPR-Cas enabled advanced breeding platform to develop seed products for greater environmental resilience with characteristics resembling disease resistance and drought tolerance, additionally advancing development of improved hybrid systems. The technology is applicable for all Pioneer crop interests.

“This is just the beginning, we believe the true value of this important innovation in plant breeding will be achieved through active engagement with customers, academia, governments, NGOs and public research institutes to develop new solutions to the toughest agricultural challenges,” revealed Gutterson.


Ashley Kubis

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1 comment

  • You forgot to mention *what* is actually modified in this strain of corn. Based on the information in the APHIS letter, this is a targeted deletion of the waxy gene (Wx1), responsible for amylose production in corn. Starch in corn consists of around 20% amylose – a mostly linear glucose polymer – and around 80% of the more highly branched amylopectin. A Wx1 deletion results in “waxy” corn that produces amylose-free starch, which makes it much easier to utilize the commercially valuable amylopectin.

    The genetic modification disables a single existing gene, without introducing any new transgenic material, something that can and does happen naturally as well. In fact, there are many existing corn varieties that already carry this trait, and this specific combination of traits could theoretically be achieved by conventional crossbreeding as well.. So what they are doing here is essentially a vastly faster and more targeted way to insert a single-gene trait into a corn variety that has all the other commercially valuable traits they’re looking for.

    I think these single-gene deletions without introducing any new genetic material should – in a rational world – be the least controversial application of genetic engineering, and this is something the new CRISPR technology excels in.

    Unfortunately, none of that reasoning is currently represented in our regulatory systems in the US. the APHIS decision essentially boils down to “Oh, you’re not using Agrobacterium to get your DNA into the plant, so we don’t have the authority to regulate you”…

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