The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) joined forces with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to bring together 22 teachers from eight countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, plus a representative from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) at the Gene Editing Platform. It was an opportunity for them to learn, from the Platform's scientists, the basic technology of gene editing, aimed at teaching it in universities and educational centers in the region.
The Fifth Training Course on Gene Editing for Teachers was held in Palmira, Colombia, from July 17 to 19, 2023. The course covered the technical basics of the technology and reviewed the applications of genome editing with concrete examples in rice, cassava, cocoa, and beans. It also illustrated regulatory advances and opened the discussion on the need for assertive communication of the topic in the classrooms of higher education and technology centers.
This technology makes it possible to edit, change, and modify genes and their function in organisms precisely and rapidly, accelerating genetic improvement and gene editing using the CRISPR-Cas system. It is also a technique that offers new non-transgenic ways to boost food crops' productivity and nutritional value.
The Alliance has been testing the technique using CRISPR (clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), which has been successful in improving organisms for human and environmental benefit and which was unveiled in 2012. CRISPR uses an enzyme called Cas9, one of multiple Cas now known, which allows scientists to target specific areas of DNA and make the changes required to improve organism traits. Compared to other gene editing techniques, CRISPR is more effective in terms of simplicity of application.
Sandra Valdes, Senior Researcher of the Alliance, indicated that this is a unique opportunity for teachers to be trained in the latest gene editing technologies and learn about the phenotyping Platform and the Seeds of the Future germplasm bank.
The relationship between the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and IICA in gene editing began in 2018 with the realization of the "International Seminar on Genome Editing for Latin American Regulators" and is strengthened by this training.
"For IICA, the precision, efficiency, and rapid development of gene editing techniques opens up numerous opportunities for agricultural production, which is why it will continue to support actions related to training and socialization of this technology," concluded Pedro Rocha, a specialist in biotechnology and biosafety at IICA.